– An organization that’s neither flat or hierarchical
We’re in favor of a hierarchy of self-interest and talent and opposed to the symbols of power and control that come with it. – Ricardo Semler
In a Nutshell
The latest fad to hit the business world seems to be self-management. Every company wants to join the bandwagon and call themselves a “fully self-managed organization”, a “team of teams” or a “flat organization with no bosses”. While it’s not hogwash, neither is it the entire truth. Today, a fully self-managed organization is still more myth than reality.
Of course, there are certain companies within specific contexts that have been able to function as truly self-managed organizations. But implicit hierarchies continue to exist even within such organizations. On the other hand, an organization with a minimum level of hierarchy, that is mature about how flat it can stretch itself, is closer to reality.
Such organizations are neither completely flat nor conventionally hierarchical; their minimal hierarchies work like subsets in a Venn diagram, intersecting when necessary while existing and functioning independently.
They have the best of both worlds, where dramatically reduced power distances and responsibility for results co-exist. And although they have a minimal hierarchical skeleton, the organization is nimble enough to respond rapidly to fluid market environments; it innovates strategically; and holds itself together with a central purpose.