Organizational Charts: Thinking Outside the Boxes and Arrows

Many businesses and non-profit organizations have an organizational chart of some type, which can be a good idea. Clearly defined responsibilities can really help team members know what they are responsible for and who to go to when they need information or approval for a project. However, organizational charts can cause problems too. Let’s consider some pros and cons.


It helps define the chain of command.

It gives appropriate boundaries to each team member.

It provides a visual, “bird’s eye” view of how the organization is running and where gaps may exist.


It can cause power-hungry people to bask in authority, or fight for new positions.

It may not be relevant to how the company actually operates.

It can make some team members feel less valuable due to its “top down” design.

It may not effectively show interconnectedness between departments.

It may be held to religiously by some personalities while ignored or minimized by others. (i.e. the “by the book person” vs. the “big picture” person.)

When thinking about having an organizational chart for your team, ask yourself the following:

  • Why do we need an org chart? (Is lack of clarity a problem on your team?
  • Can we design the chart to look more like a team plan rather than a hierarchy?
  • How would this org chart help us be “servant leaders” to each other?
  • Will we hold to this rigidly as a staff, or would we consider it a guideline?

Once you’ve answered these questions, you can begin to form a chart that fits your group. Consider thinking outside the boxes and arrows as you do this…make it fit your team and unique dynamic. Remember, an org chart should help your team, not hamper them.

Question: Does your workplace use an organizational chart? Is it effective?

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