When organizational hierarchy matters

I have always believed in a flat organization. I have managed big teams in high pressure situations when a positive outcome is not guaranteed. Information is capital and it is my experience that individuals will respond well when everyone starts with same amount of it. When everyone knows the challenges as well as the stakes, they head off in the same direction, and they work as a team. And it doesn’t stop there. When flat hierarchy and open dialog are core values, when they become habit, cohesion can be maintained indefinitely.

Yet hierarchy-refusal can be taken too far, as I once learned. I was so once committed to a flat structure, that, I decided no one on my team would have any title. For reasons outlined above, this seemed like the right thing to do until one of them pointed out, that for all my horizontal preaching, the organization wasn’t flat. There was one person on the team that had a hierarchical title – me. When I looked at my business card, I realized how disingenuous I had been. But I also realized how much I liked my title. It had been given to me by my boss and it meant something.

It’s weird, hierarchy is important outside the office. It is a yardstick that tells the world how far one has come. Titles open doors, impress the ladies (or men), lead to greater sales, and can ensure a better salary at the next job. But teams work best when hierarchy is eliminated inside the office. People can make different amounts of money, have different skills, and have different words on their business cards, but when in the office, when part of that team, everyone is held to the same standard, everyone is expected to work hard, and everyone is expected to do everything they can to ensures the success of their teammates.

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