Preparing an Organizational Structure with the Help of Flowcharts

“An organizational structure carries inherent capabilities as to what can be achieved within its frame.” ― Pearl Zhu

The modern organization represents a complex entity, a sophisticated organism, a creature of evolving thought processes, and an outcome of traditional knowledge systems. Many aspects, dimensions, and nuances define the fluid manifestations of a modern organization, but an organizational structure remains a core idea that anchors the entity to its founding principles. Such a structure also ensures an organization stays attuned to changes in the external environment and remains responsive to intelligent inputs. Certain observers state that, “An organizational structure defines how activities such as task allocation, co-ordination, and supervision are directed toward the achievement of organizational aims. Such a structure affects organizational action and provides the foundation on which standard operating procedures and routines rest. It also determines which individuals get to participate in which decision-making processes, and thus to what extent their views shape the organization’s actions.” In light of these, the design of a competent organizational structure remains a primary objective, one that can find expression through processes configured and designed inside the expanses of flowcharts.

Ongoing re-alignments of business priorities can serve as triggers that alter the depth and expanse of an organizational structure in any industry. For instance, a commercial explorer of hydrocarbons could re-structure itself in tune with lower oil prices. This could entail changes in leadership in certain departments of the organization, a renewed thrust on locating new gas reserves for future exploration, onboarding new talent that specializes in the application of big data to oil exploration, and devising new business units to sharpen the competitive edge in turbulent markets. These plans, when implemented, can fundamentally alter the organizational structure of the explorer, and set in motion outcomes that could impact the bottom lines of the business in subsequent years. Therefore, plans must first manifest inside a flowchart illustration that enables analysts and strategists to weigh the quality of outcomes, and assess the long-term impacts of plans on the culture and functioning of said organization.

A highly formalized structure emerges when designers implement convention in creating such structures inside a flowchart. Typically, such structures represent a top-heavy configuration, wherein rigid centralization remains the norm. For instance, heads of business units typically report to a CXO in such structures, and the CXO reports to a board of directors. Legacy businesses that emerged and thrived in the last century have endorsed such an organizational structure owing to its ability to drive a focused vision, reduce operational costs, denote a clear chain of command, derive economies of scale that stem from internal transactions, etc. This configuration emerges as a linear image comprising stages and sub-stages inside flowcharts; it also allows business managers to create additional levels of operational command in step with business expansion.

Critics of the formalized model of organizational structure have spotlighted certain points of weakness that impact the modern business enterprise. These include a bureaucratic style of leadership, delays in acts of decision making, slower pace of operations, inadequate scope of feedback from the frontlines to the leadership, a lack of adaptation to change in market landscapes, a pronounced lack of initiative among the executive cadre, etc. These views, when appended to the flowchart in the paragraph above, create a negative portrait of traditional structures; they also invite suggestions that seek to improve, re-design, or overhaul the contours of the traditional organization. However, we note any revision must emerge from intelligent and perceptive planning sessions. Revisions must also preserve the (qualitatively) better elements that are integral to legacy versions of the organizational structure in pursuit of creating improved organizational experiences.

Questions, distinct lines of interrogation, and searching queries must flow when a contemporary business seeks to refurbish its organizational structure. Planners and strategists working for a provider of engineering services may evaluate existing lines of reporting, skillsets of staff members, areas of accountability, the scope of positions and roles, functional elements of existing work culture, the avowed priorities of an organization, the scope of consolidating senior roles into fewer designations, etc. Each of these queries, when assessed from multiple points of view, output responses that emerge as form and substance inside flowchart-based illustrations. The emerging picture provides a useful toolset that assists planners to re-work major segments of an organization’s structure, present an informed opinion on emerging opportunities, and design higher levels of utility and efficiency into the organizational texture of said service provider.

A matrix-based organizational structure offers businesses an opportunity to design and develop complex lines of reporting. This variation appears critical to ensure the smooth functioning of complex, modern organizations. In such structures, “reporting relationships are set up as a grid, or matrix, rather than in the traditional hierarchy. Employees have dual reporting relationships, generally to both a functional manager and a product manager.” Flowcharts deployed to depict such a matrix include solid lines and dotted links that sketch a variety of reporting relationships. However, a critique has emerged that finds lower levels of managerial effectiveness inside such implementations. This finds a counter-argument when designers of such structures position review elements within a matrix, thereby reinforcing managerial and supervisory control inside an organization. We note such a matrix creates multiple opportunities for driving innovation, thereby elevating the quality of functionality inside contemporary organizations.

The concept of the virtual organization has of late, gained currency among certain thinkers and strategists. Such an organizational structure finds ideation as a defined network populated by independent entities such as suppliers, vendors, stockists, customers, manufacturers, marketers, designers, etc. The sophisticated use of modern information technologies galvanizes these elements into exploiting market opportunities as these emerge in various environments. Observers note such a structure succeeds by reinforcing the relationships among various partners, while boosting the competitive advantages of the parent entity. The virtual organization departs significantly from legacy versions of organizational structure and spotlights the many advantages of violating convention in favor of structural novelty. When designed inside flowcharts, such initiatives emanate a picture of contrast that defeats traditional thinking on structures.

Further to the above, new and better manifestations of the classic organizational structure emerge when businesses bring together teams of workers and associates in virtual spaces. Digital technologies allow the modern enterprise to eliminate the impositions of geography when designing and undertaking such initiatives. This stance also empowers stewards to harness multiple lines of talent, develop new positions that can function across time zones, and serve clients at a faster pace. In addition, such structures operate above the sloth imposed by traditional bureaucracies, spotlight an empowered approach that multiplies the energies of the average associate, and creates multiple points of entrepreneurial focus across different work locations. Intelligently designed flowcharts enable businesses to explore the benefits of such an organizational structure and extract higher levels of utility from the modern workforce.

These reflections on the structure of an organization could output significant new chapters in thought and analyses. They could point the way to immense new variety in acts that design and mold the shape, functionality, and scope of new organizations. However, strategic thinkers should closely examine each point of innovation and envisage the potential impact on the overall performance of the organization. Flowcharts and other multi-tiered illustrations could assist in such efforts through analytical capabilities that could bring forth new models and paradigms for modern markets.

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