Cut the bullshit: organizations with no hierarchy don’t exist

Francesca Pick
Mar 3, 2017 · 5 min read

It’s dynamic hierarchy, stupid!

In most organizations today and in line with much of organizational theory, job titles correspond to a specific position within the organization’s hierarchy. There is a defined path for getting into this position (a specific degree, followed by climbing the corporate ladder for x number of years, maybe skipping some steps if you are good at politics) and job titles correlate with specific lines of communication and decision making power.

Hierarchy does not need to disappear from our organizations, but it needs to change.

In such dynamic structures, sometimes authority correlates with age or time spent in the organization, but not necessarily. A new person entering may have superior expertise on a subject to others in the organization, putting them at the “top of the hierarchy” for this area. Simultaneously, they may be answering to a person with more history in the organization in the context of another project. I can both be the chair of OuiShare Fest Paris and answer to those same team members in another context.

Hierarchy is a common structure found in nature

Without formal structures, informality rules

So why not just get rid of hierarchy all together and “declare everyone equal”? In any system with humans in it, power relations exist, whether you formalize them or not. And as Jo Freeman’s states in her essay the Tyranny of Structurelessness, “structurelessness in groups does not exist”. If you refuse to define power structures, informal ones will emerge almost instantly. Not expressing these can be extremely harmful to your organization.

To distribute power and leadership in organizations, we need to acknowledge their existence first.

What happens to bosses in a dynamic hierarchy? It might just be a matter of finding a new term, but contrary to what one often reads about self-organization, I am not convinced organizations should be bossless.



Ouishare

Ouishare connects people and accelerate projects for systemic change.

Thanks to Sarah Eisenmann.

Francesca Pick

Written by

Experimenting the future of organizations and collaborative governance @ Greaterthan, OuiShare & Enspiral. Co-founder OuiShareFest, steward of Cobudget.

Ouishare

Ouishare

Ouishare connects people and accelerate projects for systemic change.