Organizational Layers, Long Chains of Command, and Cumbersome Committees Prolong Deliberation and Foster Procrastination

The essential ingredient for an efficient enterprise is simplifying the system of control and, in particular, shortening the organizational layers from the field to top-level executives.

In a small organization the chief executive officer or president is at the helm. He or she is in a unique position to control both policy making and execution. Because decisions do not have to be channeled through others, they are unlikely to be misinterpreted, delayed, or contested. Plans can be implemented with consistency and speed.

In the larger multiproduct firms with more people, products, and additional levels of authority, results may fall victim to a cumbersome, inflexible operation. Individuals in the field often feel that organizational obstacles in the decision-making process prevent moving forward with new initiatives. Consequently, missed opportunities are common, and go decisions get stuck for reasons other than the competition.

Even first-line managers think that there are too many people at the staff level or not enough on the job with revenue divisions. The large office staffs and the shortage of line personnel are sources of constant complaint. Much of that condition, however, has been handled over the past decade by downsizing and reducing staff to an efficient lean-and-mean level.

Your own experience may well support the obvious inference that an organization with many levels in its decision-making process cannot “be swift as a hare.” This situation exists because each link in the managerial chain carries four drawbacks:

  • 1. Loss of time in getting information back
  • 2. Loss of time in sending instructions forward
  • 3. Lack of full knowledge of the situation by senior management
  • 4. Reduction of the top executive’s personal involvement in key issues that affect the availability of resources

Therefore, for greater efficiency and speed, reduce the chain of command. The fewer the intermediate levels, the more dynamic the operation. The result is improved speed and increased flexibility.

A more flexible organization can achieve greater market penetration because it has the capacity to adjust to varying circumstances more rapidly. It can thereby concentrate at the decisive point before its competitors have a chance to respond.

Forming cross-functional strategy teams made up of junior and middle managers representing different functional areas of the organization can further enhance organizational flexibility.

The psychological is to the physical as three is to one.


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