Anand BhaskarGuest Author

Structure breeds Hierarchy – A gross misnomer?

Source | Anand Bhaskar

An opinion

Often I have heard business leaders profess that organizations need to be nimble and quick to adapt to change. Therefore, it is important for organizations to be loosely designed and structured, so that they can morph and adapt periodically.
I often wonder what has morphing to do with loose design and structure. The argument often stated by business leaders is that they support a need for structure and some level of governance to run their organizations but do not want it crafted to the last man in the organization. The logic being, “I want to promote openness and a non-hierarchical organization. Hierarchy breeds desire for control and drives consolidation of power.”
The logic sounds very astute and difficult to contest. The interesting question however is what does an organization with loose design and structure solve?  Is it truly open, non-hierarchical, no centers of control and/or consolidation of power? If seen carefully with another lens, it has all the so called ills of a structured organization, namely, lack of transparency, hierarchy and consolidation of power. The big difference however is that it is not distributed as it would have been in a structured set up rather it is actually consolidated with a select few at the very top. Besides, it breeds slow decision making, lack of accountability at all levels, multiple voices pulling the org in different directions (anarchy of sorts) and semblance of a directionless army.
An organization’s ability to adapt is not driven by structure or a lack of it, but its intrinsic DNA (what is often called culture). For an organization to perform despite a loose structure it is heavily dependent on relationships across the spectrum and a complex matrix built around an informal org model. When organizations are small and located in fewer countries / continents, the model is scalable and works well. However, when organizations globalize and are required to embrace a global work ethic, these models are destined to fail. This results in disillusioning people who neither have context to the past of the company, nor are interested in it beyond an awareness level.
Leadership foresight is about acknowledging the past, celebrating it and moving forward by embracing a different approach based on what is needed to take the organization to the next level. Org design and structure are an integral part of a company’s functioning. It creates predictability, accountability and a balance of power. It can propel an organization’s business strategy and results. It does not breed hierarchy. People and their personal leadership styles breed hierarchy and control. Besides, in an organization culture which is diverse and inclusive one needs to encourage varied styles. In certain roles, control traits are significant strengths and can enable the company’s vision and goals. Leveraging diversity and different styles is also a quality of a great leader and of organizations that aspire to be great.

Anand BhaskarA professional, an entrepreneur, a humanist & thought leader with 25+ years of Industry experience across varied sectors – Petroleum, FMCG, Financial Services, IT Product and Digital & IT Services. Worked with well respected companies such as BPCL, Unilever, GE, Microsoft & Sapient.Specialties: Executive Coaching, Management & HR Consulting in the area of business & HR strategy, Org design & change, Talent Management and Leadership coaching & development. Professional Certified Coach (PCC) from International Coaching Federation (ICF), USA.

He is currently the Founder & Head of Planet Ganges, a Global Learning & Collaboration Eco-System leveraging “digital” to bring global learners, learning providers, corporates & universities on one platform to collaborate & enable boundary-less learning opportunities for every human on the planet.

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