Hierarchy- Limits the Growth


A jillion smart, energetic people submitting to the ‘right’ incentives won’t get you a micrometer closer to the customer unless the dead weight of a vertical hierarchy is lifted — almost entirely — off their backs. There’s no liberation when much more than a semblance of the superstructure remains.” — Tom Peters, Liberation Management

A rendezvous with a friend over a steaming cup of coffee – “does hierarchy in an organization limit the growth of talented employees?”

An Engineer joined an organization, as the market (during that time) was volatile and since he could not make good use of his engineering degree, so he decided to earn his bread and butter by opting for a career in HR. Within a few years, things started getting in shape but the market value of this guy was not rocketing, although education wise things were going immensely well for him (he completed his MBA), yet he was lacking the right opportunities and his talents were not being recognized. The company he worked for took a Manager’s work out of him (he was asked to do a growth analysis and find the gaps in hierarchy) this was all hush-hush and the actual implementation was done by the GM. Every year his review was left in the middle due to some pretext or the other and the GM would tell him later that, “Ghar kee baat hai ho jayega”.

The Vertical hierarchy; that this guy had to follow was actually limiting the knowledge expansion and also his promotions, after much coercion from his friends and family, this guy realized his value and asked for a promotion. However, he was told that there was no place in the hierarchy for him at that point of time and even though a position of HR Manager was there but then for that he would need to take a double jump to get there.

What kind of a system is this? Where on one hand this guy is asked to do the work of an HR Manager, but when it comes to giving him the right position, there are zillions of excuses being made.

Why do we have such systems? Talents get wrapped, burden of supervisor falls on their back and creativity is enveloped behind the closed walls of the structure. I really doubt that people would excel within such systems where you have to cross so many barriers to get an approval for even a small thing.

Yes, the answer to this may be Matrix organizations, or flat structures, or may be functional but knowing this we are still working in such complex structures where our growth from the executive to managerial level may take 7-10 years or may be even more. Sometimes the structure becomes so much complex that it affects the customer relationship as well, as the above mentioned quote suggests the tyranny of such systems.

Work environment, communications, growth, personal motivation and creativity- all this is lacking in such organizations where hierarchy defines everything. So what is the solution for such organizations? Here are some suggestions:

Foster Ideas and creativity at all levels: Believe in the system and trust your people; any employee can bring in the change with just one idea so view each member as a source from where an idea can change your company’s life or profits….

Share power and decision-making with others throughout the organization: the major problem with such organizations is power and decision making, let’s start empowering others. Create focus groups, give them some powers and then see the change. The idea should be to reach the masses and find out the hidden talent.

Employee participation: Its more or less related to empowerment, make your employees participate may be with small changes of having suggestion boxes, and then implementing few of those that can make an  impact and help in their motivation.

Encourage relationships and the building of networks: Networking within the organizations can bring in many changes, sometimes any vital information, a supervisor is holding on to, can leave his pockets and reach up to the top level…and yes, that makes a blow.

Environment of learning and innovation: Cultivate the environment of learning, with that you will also sow the ‘out of the box’ thinking. Higher studies, development programs, cross functional movements, talent shows within the organization where you can find out the hidden talents(no we are not talking about singing or dancing competitions) but shows where you can invite solutions from your team members for any problem where your leadership is stuck.

Career Advancement opportunities: Yes, last but not the least on my list is that as a good leader one should provide an equal opportunity for the members to grow within the organization. There are people who have loads of potential but are stuck at one level for years, take the example of accountants who have hardly any growth – one reason being that we don’t give them the opportunity.

Try it…and see the impact…:)

These are only few of those things that can help the organization find their high potential and for the low level staff members – who are like the bird in a cage, fluttering hard to show their hidden talent but are trapped by the clever supervisors!


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