The current times demand organizations that are lean. People and in particular the younger generations are asking for more empowerment and more flexibility to move between roles.
These trends should make more companies to consider removing organizational layers in their organization. A good example of this de-layered approach is Unilever that took the challenge to create a 5 layer organization.
In order to ensure that a flat organization works, I would suggest to look into the following 5 principles:
1. Information is where the action is.
Make sure that the part of the organization that is most connected with your customers can access all the information required to provide the best solutions, while ensuring that they can also be empowered to take the best decision, in real time, without having to go through a long list of committees or leadership level to get approval for their proposals.
2. Learn to leverage size
In flat organizations, size become a reality in most teams. This requires clever prioritization and organizational skills. In these organizations, the leaders cannot have the ambition to control everything, instead he needs to focus a lot more on repeating and aligning the purpose so that everyone can take decisions independently but aligned towards a common goal.
3. Specialize and understand each team role
Having big teams and less layers doesn’t mean that everyone should be doing the same thing. Instead, it becomes even more relevant that people understand their strenghts and the role each one plays in the organization. This includes the leadership – In an organization where the numbers of leaders is reduced in terms of ratio to individual contributors, one cannot affort to have leaders that don’t understand their role and try to compensate for some of the teams weaknesses.
4. Virtual work – Synchronous and asynchronous collaborations
Learn to use time effectively. Not every meeting needs to happen in presence and not every discussion needs to happen with everyone contributing at the same time.
Knowing to differentiate from synchronous collaborations (e.g. Meetings, town halls, workshops) to asynchronous collaborations (e.g. e-mail, Shared Drives, Collaborative documents). Make best use of technology to speed up communication and ensure that each person contributes to its maximum potential without compromising their efficiency at work.
5. External interactions
Always look externaly for additional ideas. An organization can multiply its efficiency when it combines the power of an in-house team with the flexibility of some partners or customers providing an alternate perspective.