Smiley face alternative organizational chart

On a scale of 1 to 5, how sick are you of hearing about millennials changing the work force?

5. Actively vomiting
4. First-trimester morning sickness
3. Empty stomach
2. Don’t know who millennials are
1. Don’t know what a work force is

Well, now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s talk about millennials changing the work force.

Today I will begin a series of meetings with the Director about making our organization a Great Place to Work. Topics of interest are racing through my mind at lightning speed; the non-profit laundry list of workplace woes is never lacking.

Pretty radical disruptions in workplace culture have hit the tech world hard in the last 15 years and, as usual, non-profits are staggering like zombies ten yards behind, planning to begin a request for proposals to outline a method for discussing how we might set up an initiative to begin committing to measuring our progress on establishing the idea as an organizational priority.

Those actually leading the movement started by applying the tech problem-solving approach to their own workplace: asking un-askable questions, imagining out-of-the-box answers, trying them, failing fast, and making adjustments. Suddenly unlimited vacation policies, free food and free transportation were easily doable, and annual reviews were promptly tossed out with the bathwater.

Since these first radical disruptions, many non-tech organizations have also pledged to become a Great Place to Work. Some groups have even made it their raison d’etre. This badge of honor that can now be brandished in a company’s collateral makes the intangible (company culture) tangible (measured), and uses the power of propaganda to not only message externally but to also message back to the employees themselves.

Naturally, the workplace culture movement has become a platform for entitlism everywhere. Where before work was a means to an end with clear one-directionality from employer to employee, now the employer is indebted to the employee as well. If the workplace is not providing culture, engagement and professional development in addition to compensation and benefits, it’s falling behind. Transparency and flexibility are the movement’s rallying cries, and hierarchy itself is being replaced by a “network of teams” or “teams of teams”.

Fast, Flat and Flexible could be its tagline.

In a strange turn of events, job titles are also changing to reflect a highly creative, less hierarchical work force more dedicated to building culture. Human Resource Directors are now self-identifying as Directors of People Power and Talent Managers.

Considering this momentum, I’m surprised there hasn’t been more conversation in the area of organizational charts, themselves being a physical representation of traditional workplace hierarchy on the verge of collapse. It seems like the next appropriate question.

Having worked for two membership associations that boast the beauties and complications of certain member rights to governance, I’ve constantly found myself tripping and falling somewhere inside an organizational chart that’s flowing in the wrong direction, and from what I can gather this is a pretty common experience.

Given my opportunity over the coming weeks to discuss great workplace cultures with my Director, and considering that we’ve just downsized 50% to the smallest team in the organization’s history, I’m going to try to convince him to take the pledge.

I figure we could start by blowing up our old organizational chart (the typical down-flowing model) and replacing it with something a little more forward-thinking. Here are a few I came up with:

The Happy

The Pacman

The Pile of Donuts

The Lightning Bolt of Love

Top-down organizational charts are not just outdated — they’re almost always inaccurate. Those of us on the ground every day know that information, accountability and responsibility flow like water in and out of every crevice of a business. People’s roles and methods of engaging are constantly changing, and no infographic will every capture the intricacies, especially not one with a “top” and “bottom”. (Have you ever seen this upside down map of the world?)

Leadership really looks more like a Happy Lightning Bolt of Donuts: coming from any angle at any moment from any person, not just the one who earns the highest salary.

I’d love to hear your thoughts!

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About The Author

The Emotional Businessist's picture

"I like to explore the intersection between emotion and business in the public-profit world. I have observed a natural tension in this space which leads to juicy and provocative conversations. I try to remain detached, stay open-minded, and play devil's advocate to seek and speak the truth."

TheEmoBiz lives in the forest with a spouse, toddler, and dog, has been working in business for over a decade, has a daily spiritual practice, and comes from a family of writers. Follow @TheEmoBiz on Medium and Twitter.

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