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5 Ways To Thrive With a Flat Structure

We often hear managers say “we have a flat structure here”.

It’s a great idea in principle, who wouldn’t want an organisation where everyone feels empowered to make decisions, and managers aren’t required to monitor output or referee conflicts between teams.
They absolutely can work, but you have to really think it through and work at it on an ongoing basis. Setting up a flat structure takes a lot of careful thought. Any human system left unattended will have cliques form. Also, Humans naturally gravitate towards hierarchy and they will arise spontaneously even in a flat organisation, whether you want them to or not. They can form based on power, knowledge or resources. To set up a flat structure there are a number of things you need to keep in mind:

๐Ÿญ ๐—ฌ๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ผ๐—ฝ ๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐˜๐˜„๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐˜ƒ๐—ถ๐—ฑ๐˜‚๐—ฎ๐—น๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—บs ๐˜๐—ผ ๐˜€๐—ฒ๐˜ ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฑ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฎ๐—ด๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ฒ ๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ “๐˜„๐—ฎ๐˜† ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐˜„๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด”.
People confuse flat structures as a “free for all”. Bring everyone together to agree the standard everyone will work to so there is consistency, not anarchy. A team agreement that sets out the way of working is a great way of doing this

๐Ÿฎ ๐—ช๐—ต๐—ฒ๐—ป ๐—ถ๐˜ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฐ๐—ผ๐—บ๐—บ๐˜‚๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ฐ๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป, ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ณ๐—ฎ๐˜‚๐—น๐˜ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐˜๐—ฟ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ฝ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐˜†
If you want people to take more responsibility you need to share information so they can do their job, you even have to trust them with the sensitive stuff

๐Ÿฏ ๐—•๐—ฒ ๐—ฐ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฐ๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ธ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ด ๐—ฟ๐—ถ๐—ด๐—ต๐˜๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ฒ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐—ฝ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€๐—ถ๐—ฏ๐—ถ๐—น๐—ถ๐˜๐˜† ๐—ฐ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—น๐˜†
People need explicit permission to make decisions and take responsibility. So you need to work with individuals and groups to define how much authority they have to act. You also need to clarify the process for making decisions. Will people need to take advice, will it be consent-based decision making, can someone have veto?

๐Ÿฐ ๐—ฅ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฒ๐—บ๐—ฏ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ, ๐˜๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—บ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—ด๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ถ๐˜€๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป’๐˜ ๐˜€๐˜๐—ฎ๐˜๐—ถ๐—ฐ
You have to constantly clarify and update peoples’ roles and ensure everyone is clear with each other. In a flat organisation, it’s easy for things to fall between the cracks or for there to be friction between overlapping roles


๐Ÿฑ ๐—ฌ๐—ผ๐˜‚ ๐—ป๐—ฒ๐—ฒ๐—ฑ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฒ๐—พ๐˜‚๐—ถ๐—ฝ ๐˜†๐—ผ๐˜‚๐—ฟ ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ผ๐—ฝ๐—น๐—ฒ ๐˜„๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต ๐˜๐—ต๐—ฒ ๐˜๐—ผ๐—ผ๐—น๐˜€ ๐˜๐—ผ ๐—ฑ๐—ฒ๐—ฎ๐—น ๐˜„๐—ถ๐˜๐—ต ๐—ฝ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ณ๐—ผ๐—ฟ๐—บ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ ๐—ฝ๐—ฟ๐—ผ๐—ฏ๐—น๐—ฒ๐—บ๐˜€ ๐—ฎ๐—ป๐—ฑ ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐˜€๐—ผ๐—น๐˜ƒ๐—ฒ ๐—ฑ๐—ถ๐—ณ๐—ณ๐—ฒ๐—ฟ๐—ฒ๐—ป๐—ฐ๐—ฒ๐˜€ ๐—ผ๐—ณ ๐—ผ๐—ฝ๐—ถ๐—ป๐—ถ๐—ผ๐—ป:
Peer to peer feedback is the lifeblood of a flat structure. However, you need to give them the skills and the training to have these conversations

There are a wealth of resources to help you if you’re looking to revisit your flat structure or to set one up. A good place to start if you’re thinking of working this way isย Frederic Laloux‘s classic book “Reinventing Organisations”.ย 

Daniย and I are always happy to chat if you want to assess how ready you are and the steps you need to take!

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