Why waste time on an org chart when the world is falling apart?

Great question. Most large businesses, especially new and growing ones, have a difficult time producing an organizational chart. Most small businesses like mine see it as a tedious corporate exercise. And in the wake of shutdowns and a pandemic, it’s harder than ever to nail down who does what. In our office, we had to make a huge pivot in 2020, and since then it seems as if everyone has had the same job description: “other duties as necessary.”

So with the world changing, and our business changing constantly, should small businesses even bother spending time on an org chart?

Here are some competing truths and a conclusion.

  1. Good boundaries make for good business. In my 13 years of helping companies build teams, I’m seeing that clear lines of responsibility and process separate the best from the rest. That’s what a good org chart does. Without boundaries, chaos runs rampant. There is kindness in clarity. Org charts can be challenging to draw up, but they provide definition which brings  clarity. When nobody knows who reports to whom, and who is responsible for what, then the loudest voice wins, and the most urgent need gets attention, even if it’s an unnecessary voice and an unimportant need. Another additional benefit? Good boundaries make for better relationships with coworkers. And as we wade through the Great Resignation, smart leaders will do all they can to keep their team whole.
  2. Tight boundaries make for a rigid company that cannot change with the times and crises of the day. We have helped over 30,000 organizations navigate their staffing, payroll, and other pivots during the mess of 2020. The organizations that made it through (and even flourished) during that year had one common denominator: agility. They were all able to shift, which means dropping the formality of “the way we have always done things,” and giving up the phrase, “that’s not in my job description.” The backside of organizational charts is that they can make a team too rigid, which just doesn’t work in an age that requires more and more agility and adaptation.

So, to org chart, or not to org chart, that is the question. I wish I had a blanket answer, but I’m learning that every team is unique. And what worked for your team in 2019 may no longer work. Creating healthy boundaries while guarding against rigidity is an art and not a science. I’ll leave you with a couple of questions you might ask yourself:

Do people know their responsibilities and how the company functions as a whole?

Is your company’s organizational chart helping you get work done, or hindering work in a changing environment? Does it function as a servant to your productivity, or as a master that hinders it?

Teams are living organisms that change as the seasons pass. Ask yourself the above questions on an annual basis. I bet you’ll find that you know the answer, and will be able to guide your team to what is best for the season you are in.