The Structures, Management and Procedures Element

This Element brings together those aspects of organisational design which shape workflow, metrics and incentives, line management roles and behaviours, and decision-making.

Many organisations appear to be structured around three assumptions:

  1. Hierarchies are just common sense: you need somebody to be in charge.
  2. People at the frontline are of lower status and less motivated so they can’t be trusted to make decisions or manage their own work.
  3. Other ways of organising may be fine for some companies but they’ll never work here.

Of course some demarcations may be necessary, reflecting different bodies of expertise and knowledge. Yet traditional, vertically organised structures create silos between functional specialisms, often causing frustration in resolving day-to-day issues and can have a particularly negative effect on the capacity for innovation. Layers of line management tend to put distance between decision-making and frontline employees, disempowering them and diminishing their influence.

Conversely, businesses with flatter structures and a very short chain of command can enable different groups to intertwine in ways that help everyone to understand each other’s roles, specialisms, priorities, problems and vision. Flatter organisations rely on a decentralised, trust-based approach to management which minimises permission-seeking and enables a high degree of employee involvement in decision-making. Employees take personal responsibility for satisfactory outcomes, facilitating information sharing, breaking down divisions between roles and sharing competencies. Team or organisation-wide reward systems are deployed rather than those which focus on individual tasks or performance, and they are designed to incentivise the supply of good ideas as well as collaboration.

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What is the scope for removing functional divisions to enable work to flow more smoothly?

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