Shape of the Org Chart LO5704

William J. Hobler, Jr. (
Sun, 18 Feb 1996 07:05:26 -0500

Replying to LO5683 -- Was: Bosses vs. Leaders

In discussing the shape of an organization chart, Ginger Shafer commented

>I believe the better shape is indeed wheel-like. ... The
>common or shared functions reside on the "hub" and each "spoke" is a
>product line or customer group served. The "wheel," or outer rim
>represents the identity or culture that ties them all together.

When trying to envision the relationships of an organization and its
boundaries with its environment the wagon wheel is my choice. I add
suppliers, shareholders and regulatory agencies (and others if needed) to
show all influences on organizational behavior.

I use this visualization very carefully though because the relationships
don't seem to be like spokes at all. For instance, in utility
organizations a customer may be a supplier and a share holder. In many
organizations an employee is a union member and the union holds a great
deal of stock.

I prefer to visualize the organization as a web within a web. At a
strategic level the web is fairly simple. It is anchored against the
devastation of change by its vision and principals. The major
stakeholders are the nodes (crossing points) of the web. In this picture
I can pick up any stakeholder and see their relationships to the
organization and to any other stakeholder.

This concept is extended to include more detail by visualizing that each
node represents its own web like network. Consider that a customer node
has a relationship to the sales, service and financial nodes of our
company. If I examine the service node I will find a web of relationships
the influence the particular relationship with this client (or type of

Envisioning the shared resources or constants of an organization is much
more difficult using this prototype (oops - almost used 'model' and opened
that Pandora's box). But the shape and relatively orderliness of the web
is indicative of the organizational type. A very orderly web that looks
as if it is spokes on a wheel with uniformly spaced rings is indicative of
a highly bureaucratic and directive organization (Red Cross of America).
A web that has strands that jump all over the place (built by a drunk
spider) indicates, to me, either a highly entrepreneural collaborative
organization, or one in which the senior person is meddling in all aspects
of the organization (sometimes good often bad).

I particularly like using the web when working with service organizations
that are trying to move to work teams. A team is represented as a web of
its members and the customers it is to serve. For any particular customer
interaction I can pick the web by the team member best qualified to
satisfy this customer. The rest of the web comes along with those most
able to help the particular team member closest to the member's node.

Like all representations this too has its problems. But I find it
helpful. ( William J. Hobler, Jr.) Bill

"William J. Hobler, Jr." <>

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