Hierarchy and Network

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Back in May, the renowned author and change management guru John Kotter published a short article on the role of hierarchy within organisations. Kotter suggested that whilst the hierarchical organisation had been successful during the 20th century, in the modern world, where an ‘ever increasing rate of change’ is taking place. The managerial processes which run through a hierarchy do not handle transformation well and can represent an obstacle for a business going through large scale organisational change.

Kotter argued that at both a philosophical and practical level, the hierarchy opposes change. ‘It strives to eliminate anomaly, standardise processes, solve short term problems, and achieve stopwatch efficiency within its current mode of operating.’ By holding up these principles, Kotter believes that the hierarchical organisation can often ignore new opportunities for transformation which may be considered disruptive.

In Kotter’s view, the successful organisation of the future will have two structures: ‘a hierarchy, and a more teaming, egalitarian, and adaptive Network.’ He describes this network as ‘a system of teams with representatives from all divisions and all levels, who leave formal titles at the door to participate in a decidedly anti-hierarchical forum.’

Able and How’s clients are experienced in leading change and understand the importance of investing in change management. Developing networks is a key part of this and we’re currently helping a number of organisations build their own. But developing a network is easier said than done. It requires the commitment, time and influence of busy individuals. And at a minimum, the implicit trust and support of senior leadership to allow those individuals to identify and respond to change in a way that traditional hierarchies might not recognise.

Have a read of the article and let us know your thoughts.



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