Will Witch's Hat Organizational Structure Replace Pyramid?

Article excerpt

To prosper in the workplace of today and tomorrow, you must be excellent at influencing people over whom you have no direct authority.

That observation is from Albert Vicere, business professor, author, lecturer and consultant. Vicere spends time in the management bowels of IBM, Anheuser-Busch, Hewlett-Packard, McDonald's and other business giants -- a front row seat to watch changes in organizational structure.

In the early 1970s, Vicere saw the typical American company organized like a tall pyramid. It was a hierarchy of authority, with layers of management separating front-line workers from the CEO at the top. In the late 1970s and 1980s, organizations flattened their management ranks, largely to cut costs. The downsized organization looked like a squat pyramid. Though management ranks were thinned, the structure still was hierarchical; front-line workers remained at the bottom; the CEO, with authority over all, at the top. In the 1990s, Vicere is watching another structure emerge. This organization is shaped more like the outline of a witch's hat. Companies are tailoring down to their "core competencies," spinning off lines of business and focusing on what they do best. Managers and workers in the noncore lines were spun off, too. Here's where Vicere's point about the importance of influence comes in. When he draws current organizational structures, many of them look like a witch's hat with a couple of triangles floating above the rim, in the spaces formerly occupied by the sides of the pyramid. This is the new "virtual" corporation. The two small triangles floating beside the core pyramid are the places where joint ventures, strategic alliances, partnerships, outsourcing, contractual and temporary employment occur. …