Janik von Rotz

3 min read

Making hierarchies more efficient

I tend to come up with the important questions always a bit late. “Why do I not like working in hierarchical organizations?” is the question I should have asked a year ago. I gave it some thought and here are my notes.

I always thought that I don’t like working in hierarchical structures because I don’t require anybody to explaining me what to do. To be self-reliant, self-reflective and take responsibility is natural to me. And I always stood up to these values. Nonetheless, I struggled working in big project organizations. Did not like how people looked after themselves and only their part of the project. It just seemed inefficient to me, but I was not able to point the finger to a particular problem. I ended up with the conclusion that I am personally not fit to work in an hierarchical organization.

A year later I have changed my work environment entirely. I’m now partially self-employed and work for a small business. Everything is output driven and there is not much overhead when it comes to coordination and planning. People work in a self-reliant and responsible manner. That is where I realized that the problem I faced when working in hierarchy rooted in something else than assumed.

Let me explain by an example. Imagine a big software development project. There are 50 people involved such as developers, business analysts, project managers, architects, platform engineers, consultants and integrators. The company issues a project organization and sets up an initial structure. Usually, you end up with an organization that is being instrumented by people which aim to take control. Its a natural cause that we put people in charge that want to lead others. The results in an hierarchical organization that is driven by interests.

So how is this problem? Let me explain further.

The short version is that I rather want to work in an organization that is driven by goals and not peoples interest. At the top there must be the projects vision, which is then further broken into goals, milestones and tasks for the members of the project.

Now, how can you achieve that?

Simply by establishing a framework in which a team can organize itself. The executives and managers must present a code of conduct and communicate the objectives of the cooperation correctly. The goals then must be further analysed into milestones, sprints, stories, tasks or whatever fits the project management method. Create cross-functional teams and distribute the analysed goals among them. Then let people act for themselves. Measure the outcome based on performance indicators of the individual teams. Lead the project like a sales team. Only take actions and make adjustments when needed. I expect people to take a different approach when given a task in combination with responsibility. They’ll figure out how to resolve the challenge at hand the best way. Leaders must be able connect and encourage people rather than control and command them.

What do you think? Do you agree with my opinion? Let me know in the comment section.

Categories: Blog
Tags: experience , hierarchy
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