Chapter 17. The Org Chart Test

If you’ve had a 1:1 with me in the last decade, you know that once we’re done with our planned agenda there’s a good chance that I’ll stand up, walk to the whiteboard, and start drawing some version of the organization chart (org chart).

I believe the org chart is a critical artifact that must be easily discoverable and well maintained. Why? Let’s start with a definition. In my favorite part of my first book, Managing Humans—the glossary—I define an org chart as:

A visual representation of who reports to whom. Org charts are handy in large organizations for figuring out who you’re dealing with.

That’s one good use case, but there’s one missing. An org chart should also effectively describe, at a high level, how the product is organized and who is responsible for what. Above all, an org chart should be legible.

The Legibility Test

Grab a coworker (doesn’t matter who), head to the nearest empty conference room with a whiteboard, grab a colored pen and make sure it’s not a Sharpie™, and start scribbling. We’re looking for an org chart.

Rands, how should I draw it? Boxes and arrows? Architecture? People structure? Technical structure? Which boxes go where? I need guidance.

For this exercise, the only guidance I’ll provide is no names of human beings.1 Please draw what you consider to be the most commonly understood version of the org chart.

Done? Okay. Here are a series of increasingly complex questions your drawing should answer.

First, did you draw ...

Get The Art of Leadership now with the O’Reilly learning platform.

O’Reilly members experience books, live events, courses curated by job role, and more from O’Reilly and nearly 200 top publishers.