06-09-2017 Vivek Zhang, CMO, Vivo India
Dismantling Hierarchy is one of the most difficult exercises that an organization sets out to put into motion. The benefits of this are multi-fold and have led to a more productive environment for future leaders. This will only happen when any large or small company decisively takes up a flat route in managing its employees. Thus, Human Resources have one of the most vital roles in any organization. Their jobs are difficult and need focus. Some of the things which are key HR areas of operation are building and managing teams to handle failure and loss of corporate value and dealing with any major organizational crisis. The building blocks of an organization is a team of strong professionals, who are harnessed to achieve the best results. There are many corporate jargons usually used in an organization’s philosophy, what makes one organization stand out in comparison to others, is how well they deliver their vision and mission statements to their employees.
This is an HR term ‘Hierarchy’ commonly used across organizations in the world. It defines team structures and chalks out who are responsible for the business and employees. The higher the designation in any hierarchy means more responsibility and authority. Although, some prefer to downplay authority, yet it is difficult not to focus on who is leading the team. Hence, responsibility also lies with those who have authority, so the notion of dismantling hierarchy is a travesty. However, unnecessary hierarchy creates roadblocks, red tape and slows the speed of work. The virtuous and pseudo-hierarchy also plays a big spoiler in the whole eco-system of an organization and can be detrimental to the business.
There is a growing discussion on dismantling hierarchy, flat organizations and concepts like reverse mentoring. In today’s scenario, teams across the organization are required to work closely and deal with different situations with realistic and a clear approach, it becomes paramount that hierarchy should not create any impediments.
Psychologically, if you would analyze, hierarchy gives people a certain level of power and authority along with designations. Along with this arises the possibility of people behaving over-authoritative and egotistical. This type of power creates bottlenecks in achieving crucial organizational goals. Such people are examples of misguided authority, and considering this there is a major need to dispel the concept of hierarchy and create a culture of equal teams without any one person who is responsible for team goals. In view of this, new age organizations, start-ups, follow a minimalistic hierarchy, their goals are ambitious and have a slight flexibility to fail.
Dismantling the culture of hierarchy in a traditional setup is the most difficult task. However, leadership in these organizations plays a crucial role in minimizing the ill effects of hierarchy. The culture of a flat organization and reverse mentoring are some of the tools that traditional and big organizations are adopting to minimize hierarchy related issues . The complete removal of this system might not be practical in the structure of certain large multinational organizations. But such concepts play a crucial role in building a conducive ecosystem. There are growing instances where new age organizations, mainly, start-ups, are adopting a zero-hierarchy model, where everyone is an equal team player, assigned specific roles and responsibilities.
Zero-Hierarchy aims at harmonizing employee relationships, promoting transparency and encourages knowledge sharing in a seamless manner. In the case of reverse mentoring, a recruit is given the opportunity to train a senior member of the organization. His task simple; a training about digital media and facilitate them to adopt it in their work life, a relevant example of dismantling hierarchy. If one were to observe closely, this is the latest method for adapting to an open and equal status of working, by following instructions from juniors/ new hires. This is an ingenious method to introduce zero-hierarchy, thus, putting into motion a breakthrough in the ecosystem of an organization. Hence, resetting the rules and stating that knowledge can come from any level and everyone should be eager to learn, including the top management.
Dismantling hierarchy should be a conscious decision by any management and needs critical planning. Ideally, it needs to be aligned with the overall philosophy of the organization, and it should not come as an imposed measure to address short-term goals. The process of dismantling hierarchy takes up time depending on the adaptability of an organization and should be part of the overall vision. It’s a gradual process and should be executed in an organized manner. Most new initiatives have their own set of advantages, inclusive of this, it also creates a side effect. An organization taking the route to dismantling hierarchy must analyze, prepare and plan the possible outcome of such an initiative.
Over the decades, organizations that have dismantled hierarchy and called for a flat organizational order have benefited immensely with positive outcomes and efficient employees. There is a host of examples where top leaders have taken special initiatives to dismantle hierarchy and become more accessible to employees. This has worked at various levels as top leaders became aware of problems and understood the actual strengths of their colleagues. This provides the leader with a reality check about the organization’s strength and weaknesses which help a great deal in making long term decisions and building super effective teams.