Organization charts and their importance

Every organization structure, even a poor one, can be charted, for a chart merely indicates how departments are tied together along the principal lines of authority. It is therefore somewhat surprising to find top managers occasionally taking pride in the fact that they do not have an organization chart or, if they do have one, feeling that the chart should be kept a secret.


A prominent manufacturer once said that although he could see some use for an organization chart for his factory, he had refused to chart the organization above the level of factory superintendent. His argument was that charts tend to make people overly conscious of being superiors or inferiors, tend to destroy team feeling, and give persons occupying a box on the chart too great a feeling of “ownership.�

Another top executive once said that if an organization is left uncharted, it can be changed more easily and that the absence of a chart also encourages a competitive drive for higher executive positions on the part of the uncharted middle-management group.

These reasons for not charting organization structures are clearly unsound. Subordinate superior relationships exist not because of charting but because of essential reporting relationships. As for a chart’s creating a too comfortable feeling and causing a lack of drive on the part of those who have “arrived�, these are matters of top leadership of reorganizing whenever the enterprise environment demands, of developing a tradition of change, and of making subordinate managers continue to meet adequate and well-understood standards of performance.

Managers who believe that team spirit can be produced without clearly spelling out relationships are fooling themselves and preparing the way for politics, intrigue, frustration, buck passing and lack of coordination, duplicated effort, vague policy, uncertain decision making, and other evidences of organizational inefficiency.

Since a chart maps lines of decision making authority, sometimes merely charting an organization can show inconsistencies and complexities and lead to their correction. A chart also reveals to managers and new personnel how they tie the entire structure.

A major reason for conflict in organizations is that people do not understand their assignment and those of their co-workers. No matter how well conceived an organization structure may be, people must understand it to make it work. Understanding is aided materially by the proper use of organization charts, accurate job descriptions, spelling out of authority and informational relationships, introduce specific goals for specific positions.

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