Nature can be described as organized in hierarchical systems layers – but that doesn’t mean humans must organize themselves in static hierarchies. There are examples of different ways of organizing people to perform work together.
This post explores three flat and fluid organizations in completely different industries and of vastly different sizes. All of them lack hierarchical management, so how do they thrive? They follow these principles:
- Management is tasks: They think of management as a set of tasks rather than a group of people. Those tasks are broken down and formally distributed among regular workers. Everyone manages but no one is management.
- Transparency and accountability are sacred: Everyone’s performance metrics are made public and anyone can demand an accountability to anyone for their performance.
- Everyone makes decisions, but not everyone is involved in every decision: Workers are free to make decisions about their work without consulting “higher ups” (as there are none). Decision making power is distributed, but decisions are not made by majority vote.
- Make what’s implicit explicit: Topics that are taboo or give room for internal politics in hierarchical organizations (e.g. compensation, natural leadership, allocation of undesirable or highly desirable tasks) are confronted head on and the resulting decisions are made public and binding.
These organizations are living examples of that there are different ways of organizing than the traditional hierarchies. So why do we believe in organizing hierarchically when we can avoid it?
Most of us agree that just because the development process in nature can be described as a Darwinistic process doesn’t mean that we should use Darwinism as a norm to how we organize our society. Why is it then so important to organize ourselves in static hierarchies?
There seems to be a failing normative logic behind Organizational Hierarchism similar to the failing normative logic behind Social Darwinism. It might just be an example of Moore’s naturalistic fallacy; just because something IS in a certain way doesn’t mean that it OUGHT to be that way.