Are Hierarchies All Bad? LO6909

Scott R. Cypher (
Tue, 23 Apr 1996 07:46:26 -0400

Replying to LO6873 --

> My previous guess was that another purpose of a corporate hierarchy,
> asides from control, is as a selection mechanism for decision makers to
> filter the information they make decisions with - to provide decision
> makers with high quality information - information on what's important to
> various stakeholders in the system.

Another point of view about hierarchies:

"On occasion, reciprocal interdependence is so extensive that to link all
of the involved positions into one group would overtax communication
mechanisms. Organizations then rank-order the interdependent positions in
terms of the amount of contingency each poses for the others. Those with
the greatest inter-contingency form a group, and the resulting groups are
then clustered in an overarching second order group. In a hierarchy, each
level is not simply higher, but is a more inclusive clustering, or
combination of interdependent groups, to handle those aspects of
coordination which are beyond the score of any of its components. The
first rule for composition of this second order combination is to dispose
of reciprocal interdependence not adequately handled by the initial
grouping of positions." (Thompson, 1967)

Interdependence defines a hierarchy.

In a typology of organizational levels, the distinguishing characteristic
is interdependence, as indicated by responsibility and purpose of those
who managa at a particular level. Each level has a different
responsibility/purpose based on its functional role, and that function
role is directly related to the interdependence.

The intent of creating hierarchy is to change interdependence from one
type to another. Whether that is the actual reason hierarchies are
created today is not know, and is almost certainly not acknowledged.
Thompson proposes the reason hierarchies exist is to reduce the
interdepence of organizational components by how they are grouped and
managed. If we accept this proposition to be true, then I wonder how
often, in a re-organization, is objective interdependence a decision
criteria. From what I've seen, most individuals are unconscious to the
concept of interdependence in relation to how they manage their

-- (Scott R. Cypher)

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