From Vertical to Horizontal

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    We live in traditional organizations that are functional and vertically managed. The design is similar to creating and operating a “marching organization.” Work is aligned by function and managed vertically up and down the line. When errors happen, they are pushed up to the next level of command. A control structure reinforces the hierarchy of power. The traditional structure has worked historically when the environment around the organization was less complex and certainly more stable than today.

    Today our organizations are flat and horizontal. Work is being organized by process as much as function, it is managed by multi-functional teams, which are quicker in producing customer driven results. Are you seeing these?

    I guess we all need to get quicker, better and faster but it seems like we are taking a long time to get there. The problems we face, or the opportunities I might add, is the change in culture that is necessary in most significant organizational change efforts.

    From vertical to horizontal is an example of a vision that might be valued. The challenge is cultural and political, not technical.

    But then we see an example of all the various law enforcement agencies involved in capturing the person who threatened the people of Times Square. The cooperation and collaboration of all of the people involved is an awesome reminder of what is possible in organizational learning and adaptive action. The integration of their information and decision making process transcended mere structure.

    What do you think?

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    For more resources, see the Library topics Consulting and Organizational Development.

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    Jim Smith has over 40 years of organization development experience in a wide range of organizations. He can be reached at http://www.resourcesforchange.net .