Organization Charts: Reading Tea Leaves

By Scot Herrick | Job Performance

Feb 13

My division has gone through quite a few revisions (or, reorganizations and all the layoffs that implies…), over the last year and a half. I don’t know about you, but I’ve become a student of organizational charts.

They can really tell you about the approach to the business my a higher-up manager. You know: the ones that have an office and aren’t cubicle dwellers…

So, what is the criteria I use for evaluating organizational charts?

Who are the people that the manager creating the chart determines are the most trusted advisors? Mucky-mucks want people, as we all do, who they believe get it and will get things done.

What types of functions head up the organizations? Does your organization have all staff functions? How about operations? People that really talk to customers? This functional view can tell you a lot about the vulnerability of the organization to layoffs. Usually, the closer to the customer the organization, the less likely a layoff. The more staff, the more likely the layoff.

Then there is the movement within the organizational chart. Did people move up the organization? That means they have more influence. Did they move down the chart (perhaps not a direct report of the mucky-muck any more)? They have less influence. Less likely to know the inside scoop on what is happening in the organization.

Some people obsess over position and power and study organizational charts to figure that out. My approach is much less studied than that. I think the first impression on the chart is the right one. Oh, it’s a theory group and not one that does real work with customers. Oh, Joe moved down the organizational chart — not as much influence there.

It may sound superficial, but I want to do a good job — while still knowing what is happening in the organization.