If you want creative, motivated employees, then hierarchy has no place in your business.
In my mind, divisions, departments, and management hierarchy have all lost their purpose.
It doesn't matter who is doing the work; all that matters is that the work gets done--and done right so it's delivering value to your clients.
If you run a factory, McDonald's franchise, or other business that involves repetitive, mechanical processes, then hierarchy may have a place. But if you run a company that demands creativity, good problem-solving skills, and a high level of motivation from your people, it's time to flatten--and flip--your org chart.
Dismantle and Flip the Hierarchy
At Ciplex, there is no such thing as "management." There are no departments. Those fancy job titles, like VP, executive, and manager are gone. And I recently inverted our organizational chart: Our clients are now positioned up at the top, while our employees make up teams stationed in the middle, and our higher-ups are no longer higher-ups--they are now known as "team support" and they reside at the bottom of the chart.
For this to work, managers can no longer act like managers. Typically, managers assign tasks, correct employees, and serve as an escalation point for a problem. Leaders don't do this. Leaders improve engagement and increase autonomy in everyone's work. As a result, people do something not because they are told, but because they want to produce the best work for their clients.
Valve, a software development company, has no bosses or managers employed. In their employee handbook, it's explained that co-founder Gabe Newell is not your boss or anyone's for that matter. The Valve philosophy is designed to get rid of micromanagement and processes that stifle creative thinking and productivity. It allows the ideas, goals, and accomplishments of the company to become the main focus... as they should be.
Create a Team Culture
Below your clients, you need self-motivated, self-sustaining teams (instead of individual employees), and below them, your team support. This creates a culture where teams are pushed forward, rather than individuals. When everyone feels like they're on the same team, responsibility is shared throughout the entire company.
Encourage this through a team goal. These goals need to align between the team, the client, and the company. At my company, we have a team goal that we make sure is measured and improved upon every two weeks. Essentially everyone becomes a valuable asset. If even one person does not hold up his end, the entire goal (and organization) will be affected.
Don't Let Anyone Pass the Buck
Flipping your organizational structure will promote a culture with client or customer satisfaction as the top priority. How? Because when something goes wrong and problems arise, everyone is on the same page to handle the concerns.
If someone needs help with a problem, you don't need to solve it--allow your team members to do it. Reinforce that there is no room for delegation, only for support from each other. Your team is encouraged to work together and bypass the departments that once divided them. No longer will you hear that the design team didn't get the required project to the marketing team on time. Everyone knows where everything is in the process, what goals and deadlines need to be met, and is able to work together to see everything goes as planned. Clients and customers in turn see zero disconnect, and passing the buck is no longer an option when satisfaction is on the line.
If you have the right people--your customers--at the top, everything else will fall into place.
In future posts, I'll delve deeper into how to make this culture shift at your company.
ILYA POZIN is the founder of Open Me, a social greeting card company. He founded his first company, Ciplex, a digital marketing and creative agency catering to small businesses and start-ups, at age 17. @ilyaNeverSleeps