If you're part of a team, large or small, you probably feel your most invested in your work when you know how it fits into the larger goals for the team and company. When you're given a task to do or have a project to work on but have no idea how it relates to the company as a whole, it's difficult to see your contribution as anything more than an endless to-do list.
But what if you were part of a company built on the idea of democracy where you were aware of much more aware of where the company's going, with less of a structured hierarchy that occluded your view of other departments and the company's goals as whole? Would you feel more creative and more like an important part of a larger organization?
In a recent blog post, Tim Kastelle discusses how a different structure can create more efficient and innovative teams and companies. The concept of 'flat organizations' means leaving behind a strict hierarchy in favour of a more democratic attitude. Kastelle writes that:
This increase in democracy is one of the things that improves innovation outcomes in flat organisations. As people feel more involved with decision-making, they take more responsibility. This helps put them in a position where they are more likely to try out new ideas themselves.
Increased responsibility can mean increased pressure but it can also mean a much more dedicated employee who can see how their hard work will be of use. Even being aware of the decisions being made and the reasons behind them can create a team capable of much greater innovation and motivation.
This is something that many startups are discussing and tackling with innovative changes to their structures. Stripe and Buffer both have a policy of transparent email, meaning that they share all internal emails with all employees. Before you think that sounds like a terrible and overwhelming idea, the key difference here is not making it about having to read all the email but about being able to.
If you have employees who are more aware of what's going on in a company, be it at a higher vision level or at the lower level of small changes to the product, then they are able to feel more included, trusted, and invested in the work they're doing.
Kastelle continues, explaining that the aversion to the implementation of a flat organisation is due to preconceived notions about the concept itself:
When we talk about flat firms, the first response is “no, that’s impossible.” Well, clearly, that’s not true. The second response is “well, this only works in small, high-tech startups.” Again, false. Which means that we get into two more interesting questions: where does this approach work best? and how do make this approach more effective?
All flat organizations don't necessarily take transparency to the level of Buffer and Stripe but take a look at the rest of Tim Kastelle's post to learn more about the concept and whether it's something you should emulate in your own startup.
Do you think the idea of flat organizations is a good one? Or do you feel that information overload is something that is too overpowering in your job already? Let us know in the comments below or by email.