Flattening business hierarchies and removing layers of management is a hot topic in the business sphere, with staunch proponents on either side of the debate. In an article from LinkedIn, the issue is clearly defined:
"Too many employees work for their boss rather than their company or their clients. Businesses these days are filled with multiple layers of management, and employees often find themselves playing politics and focusing on tasks to make their boss happy.
At the end of the day, the company quickly forgets what their goals are and what they are in business to do -- and everyone is focusing on the task at hand with little sense of how it fits into the bigger picture."
You may need to consider delving into the discussion -- and reassessing your business structure -- if you're experiencing any of the following issues.
Your Employees Work for the Boss -- Not the Company
Employees have multiple layers of managers, all of which they need to report to. One manager may give the employee a high priority task, another manager may give them a different task, and the employee becomes the locus of a battleground between managers. The battle isn't to determine which task is most important -- it's a political battle between managers.
- When employees find themselves working to make the boss happy -- rather than fulfill the goals of the company -- it will ultimately hurt your business.
"Passing the Buck" is Common
A complex customer service situation arises. Your customer service rep doesn't know how to fix it, so they escalate the problem to their manager, who bumps it down to another rep, who escalates it back to management.
The customer becomes frustrated because nothing has been fixed, and the entire customer service department is frustrated because no one is taking responsibility for solving the problem.
- If your business is so committed to its hierarchy that management always gives orders, never provides support, and can't tackle a problem collectively, you have a problem.
Team Goals Aren't Priority One
In the above example, the customer service team was ensconced in politics and problem avoidance. The hierarchical structure of the department didn't provide any assurance against poor work performance. The goal of the customer service department -- to provide customer service -- got lost amidst the shuffling back and forth between employees and managers.
- Remove management from the equation, and how could that situation have turned out differently? The rep would have taken the initiative to find a solution to the customer's problem: by asking more experienced reps or collaborating with coworkers. As a result, the customer would have gotten a faster response and wouldn't have to suffer being routed and re-routed around the department.
Productivity is Stifled by Inflexible Rules
The typical manager likes to see employees at their desks 8 hours a day, 5 days a week. If employees boost their productivity and complete a week's worth of projects by Thursday morning, they still have to show up on Friday.
When your managers aren't flexible enough in their thinking to prioritize productivity and project completion over quibbling about work schedules, your business as a whole won't be as productive as it is capable of being.
Information Can't Flow Freely
Many businesses complain of their departmental information being siloed -- sales, marketing, and product are all on a different page. Why? Because the business hierarchy doesn't allow for cross-department collaboration and communication. Information from one department has to flow all the way up to the top of the company before it can filter back down to another department.
- If management doesn't allow workers to network across departments, employees can't find the information they need to do their work, and the business as a whole can't provide a consistent customer experience.
Dealing with problems within management doesn't mean you have to follow the footsteps of game developer Valve. The company of 300 employees has no bosses or managers -- just a pool of employees who work together to brainstorm, develop, and promote some of the most popular and successful video games of the past decade. However, consider taking a leaf from their book to foster autonomy, productivity, and goal-oriented efforts within your business.