Pyramid or flat? Maybe this is one of the most hyped organisational discussions nowadays, this reminds me of the religious wars. I tend to see this as not a question of good or bad, but I’ve begun to handle it in a more pragmatic way: it depends on the people and the community’s goal which works better, so I use both of them parallel.
The founders and the company culture
When we talk about an organization, in my opinion, we talk about its company culture. Company culture is “everything” – this comes through from the founders/management, the way that they manage the team, and the role model they represent day by day. They will hire people who are somehow similar to them and the staff will try to follow and adapt what they see in almost everything, this is the tribe part of the human nature.
The question is, are the founders/management able to adapt to their goals and company life cycle, and set the right organization form (company culture)?
Select your staff according to your goals.
Do You need bees or creative geniuses? It depends on your goal.
For instance, you can dedicate your firm to grow big and go for profit. Or you can see your company as a creative hub with the aim of continuous learning and self-development, or a team that is dedicated to solve a local or global problem. Or a mixture of these, you can spread your votes.
One thing is sure: you’ll need a different mixture of people according to your goals and the company life cycle.
Know your staff
How much time is required for your people to finish their tasks? It (should depend) depends on their ability.
Recently, I attended a leadership conference* and I heard a great approach from Gábor Füzér about how to manage your staff. If there is
- Motivation + and competency +, then you can dedicate the tasks and wait for the results, no need to micromanage, just let them work and set smart goals.
- Motivation + but competency -, then you can be sure that they put in the extra mile, but you need to spend more time with managing and coaching.
- Motivation – but competency +, then you should spend more time with coaching, and giving them more space to find out what they like in their job.
- Motivation – and competency -, then maybe it’s time to search for a well paid job 🙂
Suit the structure to your case
Handle dynamically the Flat and Pyramid structures
According to this approach, the company is able to be flat once the people are able to do their daily job without telling them precisely what to do and how to do it, because they have everything to do it: motivation and competency. If one of these is missing, you need to move towards the pyramid structure to give them more support/control. (Don’t forget that “pyramid” is not a black and white thing, there is more level of control, coaching and defining requirements.)
In other words, the size of the pyramid is proportional to the time you spend with defining the tasks and controlling/coaching your people while they work.
This means to me, that in some cases it makes sense to let a team work as they like, and at the same time, with another group of people we follow a more pyramid-like structure, not because I’m control freak, but because they need it.
Let me give you an example: we’ve recently established our Discovery team (research, ux and consultancy) that requires more coaching and time from me. They are extra motivated but they need to gain “experience points”. Comparing this to the Delivery team (development), they have large experience and competency, and they are mostly motivated, so I can just let them work. I need to spend extra time only with those developers, who need to be refreshed or moved to another project because of burnout symptoms.
Of course, every leader has a default Flat or Pyramid approach, or we can say dedication vs control freak habits. I think it’s worth to recognise which is yours, then step back, analyse the situation and the people, then select the right organisational/management form (and not the opposite way). Some leaders have a very good instinct for this, but most of us need to practice, and as usual, in my opinion the secret is the ability for self-reflection.
*Kreatív conferences – Gábor Füzér’s presentation / asystems.hu