This is a blog submitted by Wisework Partner Chris Ridgewell to mark the “H for Hierarchy” week in the WiseWork A to Z series.

H is for Hierarchy

When you mention the word hierarchy to many people, their eyes glaze over and they immediately envisage an organisation with a rigid pyramidal managerial and organisational structure with departments neatly named and placed on a chart, each one reporting to a higher power or authority. Indeed there are many organisations where this is often the case with communication passing up and down the chain of command rather than horizontally between the rigidly defined departmental silos. Such structures tend to be inefficient and can often hinder productivity as well as having a negative impact on the morale of staff members. In the world of “WiseWorking” different structures are required to help in achieving the maximum benefits.

In such structures there may still be managers but they have been transitioned into becoming true team leaders setting the goals but then (after some initial trial and error) learning to trust their people to complete their tasks without the need for micro-management. Such leaders are there to support their staff making sure that they have the right resources for the job, steering rather than managing in the traditional sense of the word, staying in touch with their staff – some of whom may be working remotely from the team leader for at least some of the time – using a variety of methods and technologies. With less red tape and inter-departmental barriers there is more open communication and cooperation between business units who are able to work more collaboratively towards the organisation’s goals and objectives.

So, how can you achieve this WiseWorking Hierarchy ? A different mindset is required.

Managers and leaders will need to learn different leadership skills and techniques which many may find risky at first until they have been tried and tested. Communications is the key to success. Explain things to your team members and ask them for ideas. Speak to members of other teams and business units. Find out what they do and how they do it as well as sharing your own experiences and activities with them. In doing so you are able to learn each other’s language. A useful tactic is to invite “outsiders” to your team meetings, even asking them to address the team rather than just listening in to your conversations. Over time you should then be able to align your goals together. These are then shared across the organisation so enabling people to understand exactly what goes on elsewhere together with any problems, drawbacks and benefits. This then tends to lead to a more collaborative style of working … helping each other, pooling and sharing resources … all the time with the approval of management and leaders who ensure that the business is heading in the right direction.

Over time such WiseWorking organisations will see real benefits accruing that include happier staff as they are able to work under less of a “Big Brother” style of management and in ways better suited to their own preferences. Observations show that people working in a WiseWork environment exhibit greater engagement with the ideals and goals of their organisation. There are also key business gains to be made in terms of efficiency, productivity, better use of resources, meeting targets, reduced staff turnover and greater outputs – often measured by customer satisfaction and retention levels.

So why not give it a try? Start with some pilot programmes and adapt the outcomes to suit your own organisation and needs.