Simpler Structures – Reducing Hierarchy


The chapter is concerned with hierarchy and the possibilities for minimizing it. It begins by noting how hierarchy has attracted considerable criticism because of its negative effects, yet it remains a widespread feature of organization. Hierarchy has provided the backbone for conventional forms of organization and it continues to perform a number of seemingly indispensable functions. At the same time, we note that hierarchy has some clearly negative features. The newer approach to organization therefore endeavors to reduce hierarchy and in so doing to simplify organizational structures. The chapter goes on to examine ways in which simpler structures can be achieved through downsizing, delayering, and the use of teams. Delayering is usually a concomitant of downsizing, reflecting the close association between the number of personnel in a company and the extent of its hierarchy. The introduction of teams can help to collapse the number of hierarchical levels by replacing vertical coordination through middle managers with direct coordination and decision making within the team itself.

images Hierarchy

Unloved but ubiquitous

Hierarchy has become almost universally derided. As Elliott Jaques has said, “At first glance, hierarchy may seem difficult to praise. Bureaucracy is a dirty word even among bureaucrats, and ...

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