Creating Organizational Structure

We act based on the obstacles and pathways laid before us.
Organizations have to have a centralized authority structure to survive. However, organizations do not have to operate this way day-to-day. Instead, we can decentralize some aspects of our daily operations by embracing a culture of self-governance, which asks each member of the organization to own their role in achieving the mission.

Structure demands behavior

How we structure our organizations changes and shapes the way that members of our organization will behave. So, we must create an organizational structure that both communicates the power of centralized authority and the responsibility that individuals have to take responsibility for our collective goal (THERE).

In order to have a self-governing culture, both centralized authority and decentralized, self-governing decision making must be in place.

The centralized authority structure

In the traditional, centralized structure authority flows from the top down. This upright pyramid structure reflects the reality of all organizations. In other words, every organization has some legal authority with the power to hire and fire, promote and demote, and make other executive decisions. This structure is necessary for companies to succeed.

  • Here are some of the effects of this traditional authority structure:
  • The leader is celebrated and the mission is subordinate to the leader’s honor
  • The leader makes most decisions, dictates responsibility, and hands out rewards
  • A hierarchy of authority develops and people try to climb the ladder
  • Participants find niches and only do the necessities of their position
  • Since decision making is concentrated in the leader, human creativity cannot flourish

The self-governing structure

Instead of top-down decision making, the leader casts a vision, inviting participants to come along with him to achieve the collective mission. Participants who respond to the invitation take responsibility for accomplishing the mission within their spheres. The leader doesn’t make all the decisions himself. Instead, he equips and positions the individuals around him to accomplish the organization’s purpose.

  • This new structure creates a different kind of organization:
  • Instead of climbing the corporate ladder, the entire organization pursues meaning together
  • The leader equips participants to succeed
  • Participants succeed by taking responsibility for the mission, vision, and values
  • Participants are more productive, since they’re motivated by their purpose, not their position

Why self-governance?

The traditional centralized authority structure is necessary for every organization. It creates clarity, organizes responsibilities, and creates a chain of command.

However, when we extend this necessary system too far, it becomes less effective. If hierarchy is our definitive structure, our culture can become competitive, apathetic, and unproductive.

In the self-governing structure, each participant has a sphere of responsibility for the mission where they can exercise discretion and make the decisions which they have been entrusted to make.

The self-governing structure works best to set goals, address mistakes, celebrate achievements, and communicate between departments.

The heart of self-governance is about co-owning the vision, inviting every member of the organization to put some skin in the game.

How does your organization operate? Why? Have you ever used the self-governing structure as part of your organization?