As a leader, have you ever asked yourself some version of, “why don’t my people get it?!” (The exclamation point is an essential part of the question.) If you find yourself frustrated with the team or team members, feeling like you can’t delegate, or not confident in what your people are doing all day, I’d like to introduce you to a valuable and possibly magical tool of clarity:
The org chart
What Is It?
An organizational chart is simply a visual representation of the reporting authority and job position structure of the organization (or department or team). It’s also a very important clarity tool for reinforcing the structure, organization, lines of communication, and overall functional expectations of the organization. What on paper may look like a simple diagram of job positions and occupants, truly does provide all those important pieces of information throughout the company.
Why Do I Need One?
Most small businesses do not have an org chart, or at least a current version, a great disservice to team members. Clarity of where a new hire fits into the organization’s structure is critical for that person to learn and eventually perform effectively in his/her job. If the new hire doesn’t know where to go for information, knowledge, and questions, he/she is likely to ask the wrong person (getting who knows what as an answer), ask the boss (training new employees is not a very efficient use of the boss’ time), ask HR (helpful, but not necessarily responsible for job-specific training), or more likely, just not ask (thus slowly setting themselves up for failure by not learning). Multiply this by all the new hires in a company over the years, add in the people that were there from the beginning who never really had clarity on who does what with whom and when, and you have a recipe for a lot of confusion and inefficiency.
Beyond inefficiency, there’s another important reason to have an org chart, though. The org chart, simple though it may be, codifies the work to be done in the organization in one, glance-able “document”. Every box on the org chart represents a job position. Every one of those job positions represents a set of tasks that must be completed. Every set of tasks to be completed contributes to the organization’s effectiveness in working on its mission, vision, goals, and strategies. And every one of those contributions moves the organization forward. One of the best pieces of advice I ever heard was for the solo practitioner starting a company to create an org chart, outline all the positions the organization needs to have for a successful initial period, and put the owner’s name in each box on the chart. The point? A fail-safe to ensure that all the job responsibilities essential to success are documented and covered. That is the value of an org chart.
But I Want an Informal, Laid Back Atmosphere
The biggest objection I hear to creating and communicating the org chart is that it “forces” too much structure on a laid-back environment. My response is simple: does work need to get done in this laid-back environment? Is it important that critical tasks not slip through the cracks? Then the organization needs an org chart. Policies, procedures, handbooks, shared calendars, even job descriptions…skip them all if it makes you feel “laid back” (But I don’t really advise skipping these!). The org chart is essential. It’s a tool that provides clarity like no other without imposing any structure or restrictions beyond documenting the work that needs to be done and the people responsible for doing it. Nothing more, nothing less. But that’s EVERYthing!
Do you know where your org chart is? How “dusty” is it? It might be time to break it out (or create it) and share it with your people. And while you’re at it, why not make the version that supports what you want your company to look like two or three years from now? Share that with your people and see how much that vision gives them clarity and motivation.
Trust me, you need an org chart. And you’re welcome to be laid back…just be laid back with an org chart.
“Organizational structure and management style are those two factors that we always forget to analyze when the performance of our businesses goes down.”
― Pooja Agnihotri, 17 Reasons Why Businesses Fail
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