Flat hierarchies: can what long-established companies from startups to learn

Flat hierarchies within the company

If you study results, you will hardly be able to avoid a special statement. Under “we have” is as often to read “flat hierarchies”. Hierarchies that can be referred to as a low threshold – that is scarce? It seems that, these are now a characteristic sought by many companies. But what really is behind it? Where does this development? And do traditional companies with clearly defined hierarchies well to put on this concept?

Flat hierarchies: What is ever under?

To talk about the meaning and effect of flat hierarchies, you must first be defined once, what is meant. The Internet is expected to be full of statements that should bring us closer to what is meant by this special power structure. To save you a comprehensive reading, we have summarized the most important aspects at this point note form:

  • simplified corporate structure
  • few management levels
  • Rank Higher accept less influence on the decision of the other
  • all employees work proactively and responsibly
  • Decisions are made faster
  • the company’s total flexible and adaptable
  • often no physical separation between the management and other employees
  • direct communication
  • familiar tone

Thinking to make hierarchies deliberately flat, may well be considered a great step change. In recent decades, steep hierarchies were considered essential if a company wanted to be successful. “Ball” means that there are people who decide what needs to be done and people who implement the decisions into action. Steep hierarchies are “intermediate floors,” For example, team leaders, department heads and so on, characterized by numerous, pass on the instructions and commands. These sometimes very opulent corporate structure means that the company is acting very sluggish in the case of changes and important decisions – after all decisions have to be approved by numerous instances. It is characterized at this point already very well from where the great advantages of flat hierarchies are. However, we want this light precisely next paragraph again.

The advantages of flat hierarchies

As already described, flat hierarchies are now seen as desirable. No wonder, since they provide both for the boss and his employees numerous advantages. Especially young companies – especially the numerous startups – have long recognized this and used it to their advantage.

Good working atmosphere

By “you” with the boss talks, which always take place at eye level, a relaxed atmosphere: Flat hierarchies automatically ensure that the climate in the workplace is very easy and pleasant. This in turn increases employee satisfaction and ensures that they come with joy to work.

Promoting employee

A streamlined structure in the company and the elimination of individual decision-making and responsibility-makers ensure that all employees have something to say. Everyone is looking for what he does, responsible – which often leads to an increase in the quality of work. The prospect to make decisions that have a positive effect on staff morale. Overall it can be said that flat hierarchies encourage employees at various levels.

Lower communication thresholds

How long does it take in your business before an information “from the bottom to the top” has arrived?Generally speaking, the larger the company (and the steeper the hierarchies), the longer it takes until this process is complete. Especially in an emergency or when quick decisions must be made, this form of structure is very inappropriate. however, are flat hierarchies, the communication has to meet far fewer hurdles before it reaches its destination.

Flexible reaction to different situations

We are in a fast paced world. This is felt in virtually every industry. What works very well today, tomorrow may be water under the bridge again. Especially those who are active in a highly digitally embossed area will know exactly what it means. In view of the fact that our entire environment has become incredibly flexible, it seems only logical that also companies accept this property. The create, by introducing flat hierarchies. The previously mentioned communication is only an example, which underlines this statement.Also with regard to decisions that are, for example, often at lightning speed like in startups, the operation of the flat hierarchies point to excellent.

Relief of executives

When employees are promoted and strengthened, which has the consequence that managers will inevitably relieved to some degree been. At this point, however, it is also important to mention that a company without responsible leadership can not exist long. No matter how flat the hierarchy, there must always be at least give a person standing at the top of the pyramid and has the last word. Who is here and gives decision powers, will receive but to feel a significant relief and reducing the pressure.

Strengthening group dynamics

Although flat hierarchies mean that everyone is responsible for his own actions, that does not mean that thereby lone be used. The omission stubborn structures in company that is also the advantage that the individual employees grow back together more as a team. By all given the opportunity to participate and decide the dialogue is encouraged. Man working together to find solutions and to grow together as a group.Even the boss has in the case of flat hierarchies very good chance to be accepted as a member of the team and included in the Community. He gets the role of collaborating in and leaves the commander behind him.In companies with steep hierarchies that is absolutely unthinkable. Here the leader is always considered a kind of unapproachable being who is above all things (or even floats).

Increased identification with the company

Closely associated with the Team Spirit is also the identification with a company. Flat hierarchies can be extremely helpful and cause employees are proud of their work here. This point is even more important if executives want to increase the satisfaction of their employees.

Success by flat hierarchies: 3 Examples

The traditional image of a successful company stipulates that at the tip of the big boss sitting. This is flanked by various councils and advisers. Another floor down sitting head of department, which passes on the decisions of the management to the employees. These form the foundation of the company, on which everything else builds. Despite this important task they have no decision-making power, but only act as executor. The model of steep hierarchies has for decades (not to say centuries) proved successful. Why it so now questioning?

The answer: . Because even flat hierarchies have what it takes to help a business succeed evidence in this matter there are a dime a dozen. Almost all startups that survive the start-up phase and to establish itself as a successful business, work with flat hierarchies and thus cancel out from the crowd.

Even large companies and global players rely on this company structure. A good example is Automattic , the company behind the content management system WordPress is and thus is one of the most influential Internet companies this time. The team at Automattic includes nearly 500 people – distributed live anywhere on the globe and work. How is that possible? The operator must give each employee a maximum autonomy and relies on flat hierarchies. This also means that it is optional for the employee to work from home or away from.

However, flat hierarchies do not work only with global Internet companies. Our second example – the outdoor equipment supplier Vaude – proves that the structures can work anywhere. Vaude is a company that first and foremost by its sustainable approach from the ground stands. The Outdoor expert has the theme prescribed environmental protection and provides, for example, sportswear from recycled fishing nets ago. Vaude, a classic family business, was founded in 1974th 2009 was founder Albrecht von Dewitz the corporate management to his daughter Antje. This breath of fresh air in the company and sat deliberately flat hierarchies. The employees were allowed a say and received numerous additional privileges. These include, for example, an in-house kindergarten, flexible working hours, job sharing models and mobility concepts. The plan works: Satisfied employees provide good work and thus contribute significantly to the success of a company.


So we grasp once again: Flat hierarchies no longer come only in fast startups used. More and more traditional companies and global players rely on these company structure – and not without reason. By eliminating steep hierarchies benefit basically all. The employees, because they can operate responsibly and self-determined and unfold and the executives because their companies can react quickly and flexibly to new situations. The increased satisfaction in combination with more motivation will benefit all stakeholders. So it makes sense to think about a corresponding restructuring. This may of course gradually and need not be implemented overnight. Good things come to those who wait, finally.