The “Right” Organizational Structure

structureThere is none. Sorry to disappoint you, but I think it's time we admitted the truth here. There is no "correct" organizational structure. Deep down, we crave that right answer, that perfect solution to the problem of structure. Should marketing people report to a marketing department, or to a business unit manager? And what about these new software companies that seem to be abandoning structure altogether and have everyone working in one, noisy room. Would that really work at my organization?

Maybe, but maybe not. Or, to put on my consultant hat: it depends. There just isn't a "right" answer. I've seen organizations succeed in a fairly strictly centralized approach, and I've seen them succeed in a decentralized one. Even though I believe that most organizations would benefit from embracing decentralization, I don't think that means there is only one correct structure solution.

It starts with culture. Your culture should be tied directly to what drives the success of your enterprise, and your structure should flow directly from your culture. How you organize people and their work should be reinforcing behaviors that you've already identified as critical to your success (i.e., what is valued in your culture). And that's not static. What is valued will evolve over time with the growth of the company, so I think we should expect both our culture and our structures to evolve over time as well.

If you're struggling with a structure problem, then just pick one and run with it, and be willing to change it if it's not working. Give up on finding that one right answer, and start actually creating solutions that work.

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  1. 08.04.2014 at 11:02 am

    Excellent point, Jamie. From my experience, the biggest challenge seems to be in, “…be willing to change it if it’s not working.” I know of few organizations who are willing to change their structure even when they know it isn’t working. Given what you said, it makes sense to use a structure that is itself adaptive. That is, a meta-structure that allows an organization to easily restructure itself based on the needs of its environment. For me, that is exactly what I’ve found in Holacracy(; an approach to organizational structure and governance that provides a foundation for structural adaption to take place. Just my .02.

    • 09.04.2014 at 11:15 pm

      Amen! I look forward to learning more about holacracy in practice. I hope you can throw some potential case studies my way!

      • 10.04.2014 at 10:41 am

        Working on them now! 🙂

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