Showing How an Organization Fits Together

Organograms - Showing How an Organization Fits Together

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Use an organogram to illustrate how your organization fits together.

It's Micah's first day on the sales team, and his manager, Leah, thinks he's settling in well. He's logged onto the system, knows how to dial an outside line and transfer calls, and has even answered a few inbound calls. Leah feels pleased with his progress.

However, she isn't looking forward to the next part of his training: explaining the organization's labyrinthine and often-changing structures and reporting lines. Leah wishes that the company had a visual representation of its structure, so that she could communicate it more effectively to new hires. This is where an up-to-date organizational chart, or organogram, would be useful.

In this article, we'll explore how you can use different organograms to represent the structure of an organization visually.

Understanding Organograms

An organogram is also known as an "organizational chart," and is a simple representation of a company's structure. The concept of organizational charts dates back to the mid-19th century; one of the first was by Daniel McCallum, a railroad engineer. Engineers began to use them widely in the first half of the 20th century, and other areas of business gradually followed.

The term "organogram" was first used in the 1960s – it combines the words "organization" and "diagram," and is sometimes spelled "organigram." Another term for the idea is "Organigraph" - a concept made popular thanks to the Harvard Business Review article written by Henry Mintzberg and Ludo Van der Heyden. 

An organogram can represent a whole organization, or just part of it. You might use one to show the different physical elements of a company, such as its regional offices, as well as how departments or functions relate to one another. And, you can also use one to illustrate an organization's hierarchies and relationships, including the seniority of different roles, and how these interlink.

Different Types of Organograms

There are four common types of organograms: hierarchical, matrix, tree structure, and horizontal/flat. Let's look at how you can use them:

1. Hierarchical (Top Down)

As its name suggests, this particular organogram shows the hierarchy within an organization, including the ranked relationships between different people. You start with the most senior employee at the top and work downwards from there. For example, you might put the CEO at the top, followed by the vice presidents, the department heads and supervisors, and so on. (See figure 1, below, for an example.)...

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