When Org Charts Lie, and Die [Office Ecology 1]

Summer can feel so delightfully slow, but change is in the air. In my consulting practice, as I work with companies to develop their culture and strategic HR, facilitating retreats and coaching leaders, I find myself continually uncovering great stories of organizations and leaders grappling with the conscious change of beliefs, attitudes, traditions and institutions. And I want to share them.

Welcome to my let's-call-it-quarterly newsletter, Office Ecology, building expertise by featuring some of those stories:

Zappos Pioneers a Fresh Approach to Company Growth

As I learned first-hand in May while spending a week at Culture Camp in the Zappos headquarters, Tony Hsieh and his team are in a truly tenuous position, making transparent the downside of traditional hierarchy and freeing themselves of bosses, job descriptions, and the expected. What was really interesting to me was the fact that in spite of the uncertainty, employees were incredibly passionate about the mission ("Live and Deliver WOW") in a way that you might never link to selling shoes online. They are truly pioneering the re-creation of intentional culture. 

From the article: "But as Zappos grew, innovation slowed. The staff expanded, more managers joined the ranks, and the freewheeling culture lost momentum. “We had gone from being a fast speedboat to a cruise ship,” one longtime employee said.

When Google Leaders Rotate to 'The Bench' 

Google is not the only company with executives OFF projects yet ON payroll, but it's always good to learn about how they keep their innovation culture humming.  It's also useful to learn how to retain talent during inevitable business shifts.

From the article: "It helps keep people off the market," one former Google executive says. "It helps keep the institutional knowledge if you need them back for any reason."

Using Code to Improve Recruiting

The recruiting process should always include an interview focusing on 'culture fit.' But what happens when 'culture fit' means 'hire someone like me'? The research is in, and it continually demonstrates that diverse thought leads to increased shareholder value. Sometimes it takes a little automation to find those candidates.

From the article: "Language like “top-tier” and “aggressive” and sports or military analogies like “mission critical” decrease the proportion of women who apply for a job. Language like “partnerships” and “passion for learning” attract more women. So where do humans fit if recruiting and hiring become automated?"

Why One Company Abolished Performance Reviews and Forced Ranking  

Can informal networks solve the problems created by org charts? When HR played the role of embedded analyst, that is precisely what it found. 

From the article: "A series of communication problems with a key customer had resulted in missteps and quality concerns. The obvious, traditional solution might have been to focus on the salespeople who met the customer. Instead the HR team reflected on an intriguing line of research: the idea that organizations are networks, not just hierarchies and business units."


I'd love to hear about your org chart innovations, whether they are happening now or perhaps somewhere in your future vision. Enjoy the summer!