You can have a structured organisation without hierarchy. This is at the heart of self-organising teams. For example…
- Scrum teams are structured with a Product Owner, a ScrumMaster and developers. There is no hierarchy, it’s a system of checks and balances.
- Scrum and Kanban are based on developers pulling tasks from a queue. Structure not hierarchy.
- Team demos help co-ordinate efforts across verticals. Disciplines demos (e.g. for UI developers) can share learnings horizontally.
- Mentoring schemes or peer one-to-ones
- Role rotation (e.g. tech support rota)
Why are hierarchies bad?
- Hierarchies risk being a bottleneck. They risk fragility. When designing the web for robustness it was designed as a network not as a hierarchy.
- Hierarchies disenfranchise the majority of employees. Not only is this bad for motivation and productivity but it stifles innovation.
- People are more likely to go along with a bad idea if it comes from a “superior” (as shown by the Milgram experiment). Everyone pushes bad ideas sometimes.
Hierarchy is simpler but less effective and less rewarding. To find out more read UNBOSS.