The Organizational Chart is dead – Bring on People Value!

Org Charts – Order from Chaos?

Org chart
Image by jonny goldstein via Flickr

The company I work for has undergone many changes in the last 3 years. Many of these changes have seen people move from manager to manager and/or team to team.

During these cycles of change there tends to be much unrest. People are used to order and structure; these changes introduce dynamic situations which lead to uncertainty. As a consequence it’s quite normal for people to search for order. One of those ways is to look for an organizational chart which will describe where either they or their manager sit in the hierarchy and therefore provide some form of assurance that they are still relevant in their organization.

Throw away your Org Chart

What use does it serve? Think about what value it really offers – for example, how often do you refer to any org chart that is published? Here’s what I mean:

Traditional Org Chart Item
Traditional Org Chart Item

This is an example of how my Org chart entry would read. It tells you only that I’m a program manager. Great. Tells me nothing of value. There’s no concept of what value I add to the organisation or any other relevant information.

Additionally, Org charts don’t tend to be searchable – something that you might hope would redeem their purpose.

There is no Org Chart – Time to empower the people!

Now let’s put a spin on this – here’s what we should move to:

No more Org Chart - People Value!

This is no longer part of any Org Chart; this is my profile. This tells you now not just what my current professional position relates to but also what past experience and personal interests I have. This metadata is also now searchable (the hashtags are twitter-esque to represent this) so anyone in the organisation can now find me based off the rich set of data I have added to my profile.So now the concept of putting this in situ of an Org chart now seems less relevant. I’ve provided the key information for anyone in my organisation (or if such a thing were possible – to partners and clients – or anyone!), anywhere in the world to find me against a topic or subject I either have an interest in or can offer support, advice or other words of encouragement. This is far more valuable from the offset and creates empowerment for employees to feel they have access to discover and create networks enterprise-wide, get informed and build relationships without formal structure which limits and offers little intrinsic value. This in turn unlocks knowledge coffins that beset many organisations, enabling more people to be more knowledgeable. As the CEO of HP once said “If HP knew what HP knows, we’d be three times more knowledgeable”.

This is just the beginning

This forms part of a bigger picture of what is essential called Enterprise 2.0 or Social Media; creating data which is searchable and consumable allowing the creation of networks of people that previously would not be possible is incredibly powerful. However this empowerment can cause traditional company culture to baulk at the thought that employees now have the power to shape and adapt the very same corporate culture they are trying to control. This is a snowball that is still fairly small but is rapidly gaining speed and size. Visionary groups such as Gartner and Forrester are predicting that companies will either adapt to this way of thinking of sink in a mire as employees circumvent their archaic processes (see Yammer) to create their own social networks. Microsoft, Oracle and IBM are three huge players who also recognise this trend and are readying their offerings through 2010 and beyond – this is just the beginning.

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5 thoughts on “The Organizational Chart is dead – Bring on People Value!

  1. I built an org chart like that at vignette for our intranet. People could enter their skills contacts etc and the entire structure was stored in a search index and backed by peoplesoft data that was synced over jms. It had a nice Dhtml based GUI that served up the traditional org chart graph and it was damn fast because it ran based on two queries to show the person with their manager and directs. It also showed people’s pictures for their profile.

  2. Indeed, but the Org chart itself was nothing more than a vehicle – the actual data was more important than the org chart the structure that it offered alone; i’m saying that data could exist outside of an Org chart and still be effective, rendering the Org chart we so often see still today pointless!

  3. Totally agree. The most useful thing about it was that the sales people added their contacts into the index so that other sales staff could search for co-workers contacts in accounts they were engaged in a sales cycle on.

    We tried the same thing with skills in the engineering and IT teams. That worked to some degree but seems like an internal social site would work better for that purpose.

  4. Better yet if the hashtags can be inferred from the person’s day to day activity. You have a wordcloud on your blog, why can’t you have a wordcloud in the enterprise?

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