The World’s Most Useless Document

The org chart

When you join a new business the people in H.R. will give you something like this:

As good corporate citizens we all seize this as one of the most important pieces of paper we will be given. It tells us how the concern works. It is critical information, it tells us how the business is organised.

The unwritten message

The organisation chart doesn’t tell us much about the way the work is organised.  But it does tell us a lot about power. It tells the people at the top of the organisation they are important, and those at the bottom that they are insignificant.

If somebody is above you…

Then (assuming you like being paid) you must please them at all costs.

  • If you have to present to them, put on your best suit and tell them what a good job they are doing
  • If they ask you if everything is OK, the answer is yes, no matter how bad things are
  • If they ask you to do something, no matter how foolish, you must state it is a good idea and do it
  • If they do something wrong take the blame graciously and apologise profusely

Never suggest that anything is less than wonderful. Especially at appraisal time.

If somebody is below you…

They must please you at all costs:

Always demand good news. You will need it to pass up the ladder.

The one thing an org chart will never tell you

Organisation charts never mention the person who is really important.

That person is the customer.

I make this point for self-serving reasons. I have run my own business. I learnt very quickly that the customer was the person who had the money that I wanted. Cash (and the person who has it) is king.

Does your customer feel like the most important person in the business?

Think about the last time you were in a big box store:

Did you feel like the most important person in the store?

Nope? Well that is because the big noise at the top of the organisation chart believes that he is and all the people below him are busy lying through their teeth telling him he is right.

So the next time you draw an organisation chart

Try publishing something like this…

What would that do for the most important person in the business?

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Image by Deneb Catalan


  1. I love this idea, James. Giving employees a clear line of sight to the customer, to how they serve the customer, seems like a very important thing to do. But I’ve never seen that happen (without being coached), definitely not in an org chart!

    Annette :-)

  2. Nor me, strange isn’t it?

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