Question of the Month: Would a flat management hierarchy work at your company?

In a recent Wall Street Journal article, Valve Corp., a videogame maker based in Washington, was highlighted for its unique approach to traditional workplace management hierarchies. At Valve Corp, there are no bosses. Decisions like pay, hiring and firing, and determining which projects to work on are all decided by either co-workers or the individual employees themselves.

It’s a radical take on the typical management structure and it definitely won’t work for every company. But in some instances, a “flat hierarchy” may be exactly what’s needed to smooth out productivity speed bumps.

The article goes on to shed some light on the thought process behind this type of organizational structure; “Companies have been flattening out their management hierarchies in recent years, eliminating layers of middle management that can create bottlenecks and slow productivity. The handful that have taken the idea a step further, dispensing with most bosses entirely, say that the setup helps motivate employees and makes them more flexible, even if it means that some tasks, such as decision-making and hiring, can take a while.”

However, the article also highlights some drawbacks to this approach; “The system has its downsides. Without traditional managers, it can be harder to catch poor performers.” And, “One study, by researchers at the University of Iowa and Texas A&M University, found that teams of factory workers who supervised themselves tended to outperform workers in more traditional hierarchies, so long as team members got along well.”

It’s an interesting concept that helps inspire thought about how we have traditionally defined corporate hierarchies. So, we want to know, would a flat management hierarchy work at your company? Give us your input by voting in our poll.


Do you have more thoughts on this topic? Share them with us in the comments section below.

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3 Responses to Question of the Month: Would a flat management hierarchy work at your company?

  1. bob blackburn July 3, 2012 at 10:01 am #

    Not all employees are ready for this concept, but many are and would be willing too take on the challenge.
    In most situations employees would rise to the occasion
    and take ownership of projects.Management has got to let go
    and have faith in there employees, afterall there hired them.

  2. WF Britt July 3, 2012 at 11:44 am #

    I tried this method in a company I started in 1970 in New York. It did not work and I had to take the reins to meet committments that the company made. As a democracy company no one would take responsibility for committments.
    In 1980 I tried the same organization in a new venture that was successful because of momentum brought on by a new product. As the company grew we had fun and sharing in profits was great incentive. However as I saw in NY the companyhas to have someone who will take responsible charge. Without this chaos reins and the company will fail.
    Millennials in the workforce present a new problem for companies because these people have never had to earn a living. Unfortunately they are the gimme generation.

  3. RandyO July 5, 2012 at 9:20 am #

    I can’t see this working in construction with deadlines to be met. As a matter of fact from most of the issues I’ve read in leadership programs, they do not seem to have good management advice for the field employees. With threats of unions and scarce applicants to accept outside labor intensive jobs, it seems hard to find people who want to earn their way up any hierarchy. Most of the people I interview need a certain pay scale before showing their skills that warrant that scale. Sometimes it seems we take what we cab get!!!

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