It is often difficult for employees, particularly newcomers, to understand where their department fits within the whole Organisation and their departmental relationships, even though such knowledge may be essential to understand priorities and procedures. One way of overcoming this problem is to publish charts showing such relationships.

In the two examples shown below, the same structure has been depicted. The 'vertical levels of authority' are widely used but this suffers from two drawbacks. It is usually shown (as here) as a pyramid, with the chairman/chief executive at the 'top' and the ordinary employees at the 'bottom' - an inference which maybe against the ethos of the Organisation. This can be overcome by simply inverting the pyramid - the relationships do not alter, but the psychological overtones of being at the 'top' and 'bottom' are at least blurred. The other disadvantage is that being drawn in vertical levels it implies that departments (and their managers) or personnel on the same level, have the same 'importance' or 'value'. Logically, it may be preferable to show the departments on the same 'level' to emphasise a relationship, even though their status is not identical. Either the relative positions of departments and/or personnel should be carefully checked and discrepancies eradicated, or the chart should carry a note such as 'The positioning of departments (and personnel) on certain levels is not indicative of importance, status or responsibility'. Even with such a warning it is difficult to overcome the strong inference of 'equality' (or 'inequality') presented by the visual image of the chart.

Figure 1: A 'traditional' hierarchical Organisation chart

As an alternative, the chart can be drawn with departments depicted within circles emanating from the Board, which is shown as the core. This overcomes the 'top' and 'bottom' overtones and blurs the problem that may arise over levels of importance and/or authority. However, it also blurs the chain of command and may not show the relationships between departments clearly.

Figure 2: An alternative Organisation chart on a web or wheel basis

If it is preferred to use the circular Organisation chart to avoid suggestions of subserviency and encourage motivation, the relationships between departments can be shown by using a relationship chart.

Figure 3: A working relationships chart

Such charts are meant to focus on the subject department and show other departments relating to it. Accordingly, each department may need to be provided with such a chart. The question of relationships should be addressed during any FAMILIARISATION process.

The External Dimension
Traditionally, Organisation charts are for internal use only. However, those organisations that interface directly with the public (and even some where such interface is indirect or merely with other corporate entities) could consider adding a further 'line' or segment to the chart - namely that of the customer. The aim of the Organisation is to make and provide goods or a service to its customers, and leaving them off the Organisation chart negates their important role. After all, it is the customer who pays for everything in the Organisation, including all the wages of everyone working there.


  1. Michael Wong 38 // December 2, 2008 at 1:13 AM  

    Hi there, a while ago we had talked about exchanging blogroll links.

    I was supposed to get back to you after I linked to your blog so you could link back.

    I linked to your blog already. When you have some time, please link back ok?

    cheers, michael wong at: