Are Heirarchies All Bad? LO6809

Eric Opp (
Fri, 19 Apr 1996 13:10:55 -0400 (EDT)

The has been a lot of discussion about hierarchies in this group (much of
which I have missed, Ill admit). There has also been some recent
discussion about teaching leadership skills. This got me to thinking.

It seems the current framing or "pardigming" of hierarchical
organizational structures has been one of the typical siloed command &
control style structure, which is deeply and inherently linked to the
Tayloristic view of the world. Another typical view is: "The only real
function of 'middle management' was to control the flow of information
within the hierarchy." By logical conclusion, we can eliminate middle
management, since we no longer need that control, or we can provide that
control through information technology and reframing how information is
passed around within the organization. I would like to offer another frame
of reference and get the group's feedback.

I would argue that in some ways, we need that hierarchy now more than
ever. Why do I say that? First, the more time we spend in front of our
information servers (computer screens) the more we loose touch with the
human elements of the organization. We also become more aggressive in our
communications, because we feel far more comfortable being aggressive
toward an impersonal sheet of electronic "paper," which gets passed on to
another via e-mail than we ever would engaging in such communication face
to face. This is also evidenced by the fact that people feel they can be
far more aggressive on the road, because they are not really battling
other drivers (actual human beings), rather they are battling a sea of
inanimate objects (often controlled by impersonal idiots so we think).
Further, the flatter that organizations get, the less human communication
that goes on between the supervisors (managers) and those they are
actually supervising (managing). For example, I barely see my current
division manger, and when I do, we can exchange a good morning, and that's
about it. So we need the hierarchy to get back in touch with our humanity.

Second, I would argue, is that we need the hierarchy as a form of
continuous or small increment style leadership training. I have learned
through my experiences being President of an Alumni Association and of a
Toastmasters club, that leading even small groups of 10 or 20 people is a
difficult task in itself. How do we expect to develop real leadership
skills within an organization, if the jump from being a worker (producer)
to being a supervisor or manager involves the jump from managing one
(yourself & your own personal time) to supervising 30 or 40 people. In my
opinion, you cannot send someone, who is about to be promoted to a week
long training session to teach them how to deal with that situation.
Further, it would be worse to send them off to get an MBA. The "fatter"
hierarchy would allow for incremental learning steps in this case - i.e.
one would start by managing a group of 5 or 10, which is a more manageable
learning experience. One would then move up to managing larger groups and
groups of groups as one's skill level increased.

I'd like to hear what all of you have to say to this!

Eric N. Opp


Eric Opp <>

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