Hierarchies are often the default means of organization for most companies. However, heirarchies are also known to make effective decision making and communication awkward and slow. By their very nature, they foster the growth of silos and barriers between groups. Far too many companies fall into the hierarchy trap. How do we get out of it? What are our alternatives and what can we do to find them? In this session we survey the different kinds of organizational alternatives to hierarchy that we have seen. We compare the pros, cons and relative merits of each. By understanding what the options are, we can better understand what works best for our own organizations. Ultimately, agile organizations should represent a much wider diversity of organizational structures. Come learn how we get there.


Outline/Structure of the Talk


Organizations are Changing

The Functional Hierarchy, once the undisputed king of organizational structure, now seems to be on the decline

Quick Primer on the common organizational hierarchy

  • functional
  • matrixed
  • divisional
  • power

The Hierarchy has gone on a diet

And organizations are trying out more flexible models

  • Zappos - holocracy
  • Signals - horizontal ambition
  • W.L. Gore - independent units

Hierarchy is very good at some things

  • Functional breakdowns
  • Clear direction

But hierarchy also has weaknesses

  • Slow
  • Poor environment for self-organization

Self organization

  • Definition
  • agile plays a central role

The Rise of the Cross-Functional Team

Matrix teams

  • Weak
  • Balanced
  • Strong
  • Agile Teams


  • virtual
  • hybrid
  • center-edge
  • nodes

That’s pretty exciting, but what if we can’t change the whole organization?

  • How about just your silo?

Silo Definition

  • It’s the company inside the company
  • dynamic reteaming

Markets are being disrupted

Organizational Structure has become the #1 leadership concern



Learning Outcome

  • Historical perspective on the evolution of current organization structure
  • Insight into the evolution of new self-organizing organizational models
  • Ideas on how to start within your own organization

Target Audience

People prone to chronic bungee jumping

Prerequisites for Attendees

Familiarity with Agile fundamentals


schedule Submitted 2 years ago