A flat organisation, or self-managed organisation, is an organisation without a (vertical) hierarchy. There are no job titles, seniority and everyone is seen as equal. With no managers or team leads, employees themselves decide what to work on.
Taking away the management layer, means more people are focussed on the product or the company. People who feel more responsibility for the work they do since they don't report to someone. Employees tend to find work more fulfilling. More responsibility often results in happier people too.
Ideas come from more people than just the management layer. From people who more often are in direct contact with their customers. Thus better know what the current friction points are.
“In a flat organisation ideas come from more people than just the management layer.”
Having this kind of organisation only works when your company is a really motivated, self-starting and happy workforce. It is hard to scale. It often gets already difficult past the point of 15 employees. By then organisational reality becomes exponentially complex. This is because by this point it's difficult to know what one is working on. When bigger than 15 it might be worth to divide your organisation into sub-organisations.
For existing companies, it's really difficult to move towards a new type of organisation. After all, people don't like (big) changes. As such I suggest giving a flat model a try with a small team and for a few months for starters. See how they deal with issues, how do they decide what to work on next.
It's much easier to start with a flat organisation from the early stages. Often founders of a startup already started this way without knowing it.
For existing companies, the flat model might be hard to live by. But this doesn't mean you can't learn from and follow some of the best practices of the flat organisation.
Working in or know a (fairly) unknown flat organisation? Let me know—I love to have a chat about it
Photo by Samuel Zeller on Unsplash