Organisations: structure without hierarchy

You can have a structured organisation without hierarchy. This is at the heart of self-organising teams. For example…

  1. Scrum teams are structured with a Product Owner, a ScrumMaster and developers. There is no hierarchy, it’s a system of checks and balances.
  2. Scrum and Kanban are based on developers pulling tasks from a queue. Structure not hierarchy.
  3. Team demos help co-ordinate efforts across verticals. Disciplines demos (e.g. for UI developers) can share learnings horizontally.
  4. Mentoring schemes or peer one-to-ones
  5. Role rotation (e.g. tech support rota)

Why are hierarchies bad?

  1. Hierarchies risk being a bottleneck. They risk fragility. When designing the web for robustness it was designed as a network not as a hierarchy.
  2. Hierarchies disenfranchise the majority of employees. Not only is this bad for motivation and productivity but it stifles innovation.
  3. People are more likely to go along with a bad idea if it comes from a “superior” (as shown by the Milgram experiment). Everyone pushes bad ideas sometimes.


Hierarchy is simpler but less effective and less rewarding. To find out more read UNBOSS.


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