Managers work for employees

Observation #6

carpedia-observation-6A number of years back it was popular for consultants (and a few executives) to draw the company organization chart upside down. The idea was that organizations needed to recognize that managers actually worked for employees, and not the other way around.

The chart concept didn’t last very long, either because it was a little contrived or because it got trampled by the advent of PowerPoint templates. Upside down org charts did look awkward but it’s too bad because the concept was a good one. It visually made an important point that is often lost: the key to successful organizations is to remove the obstacles that keep front line employees from being more effective. They are the people who sell, design, fabricate, store, ship and deliver products and services that generate the revenue needed to pay for everything.

Managers exist to support these valuable assets, and executives exist to guide and support managers, so visually it does seem more appropriate to place employees at the top level and managers below, supporting them. But organizations were originally created based on a command and control framework, and even the language we use (e.g. supervisors and subordinates) suggests a top down hierarchy.

Organization charts best depict compensation hierarchies, they don’t do a great job of reinforcing what kind of management approach a company wants to create. The most effective organizations we see try to never lose sight of who actually works for whom, and why that is critically important for their success.