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8 Myths about Business Organization Charts

8 myths about business organization charts

When you think of a business organization chart, you likely conjure up images of a piece of paper with a bunch of boxes and lines. It’s true, the org charts of the past were quick and dirty with little personality or use other than providing a visual representation of how a company or department was structured.

My, how times have changed. Not surprisingly, technology has left the mark of the Grim Reaper on the org chart much of the same way it has with just about everything else we once used. A few years ago, I saw a post with a picture of a real Radio Shack newspaper ad. The caption was “Every item being sold in this 1991 Radio Shack ad You Can Now Do with Your Phone.” Not only did technology make the Walkmans, landline telephones and handheld calculators that Radio Shack often printed in its ads obsolete, it has gradually obliterated the paper the ad was printed on. Weekday circulation of printed newspapers dropped 7 percent in 2015 alone. Grim Reaper strikes again.

While we are on the topic of the Grim Reaper, let’s talk about a few more myths. Thanks to org chart software, the organizational chart has come a long way and it’s time it gets their due credit. I want to dispel some of the misperceptions you may have about the humble org chart.

1. Organization charts are archaic.

Sure, organization charts are old. Way back in the mid-1800s, Daniel McCallum, Erie Railroad’s general manager, is credited as creating the first official organizational chart.

The first modern org chart

It looked more like a flowery tree than the subsequent, traditional pyramid shape of the early 1900s that was designed by the company now called IBM.

The Tabulating Machine Co organization chart

Fast-forward to more modern times and you may imagine the PowerPoint org charts. Even those are considered “old” by most standards.

But today is a decade later than 10 years ago (see what I did there?) and the org chart has matured like fine wine. It is modern, interactive, informative and dare I say, fun to use? If you are still stuck in the past and think of it as nothing more than  a basic slide insert, splash some cold water on your face and keep reading.

2. Organization charts are one dimensional.

When I say 1-D, I am referring to the piece of paper most org charts are printed on. I can still remember the first company I worked for giving me a “Welcome” binder with the company org chart on page 3, right after the cover page and table of contents page. The first thing I did was look at the org chart and see who the bigwigs were, then notice how far down the page I was. That was about it. Turn the page.

Today’s org chart isn’t a piece of paper, but a 4-D, interactive experience that brings a little life to an organization. It’s more than the who’s and who’s nots, and more of a “here’s how I fit in and all of the people who I can work with to deliver on my objectives.” Modern business organization charts give you so much more information about the people with whom you spend much of your life, what that title really means, and why you might want to get to know them. More on those details next.

3. Organization charts offer little more than names, titles, and positions.

Yes, the old business organization charts graphed names and titles, and organized them into a hierarchy of positions. Helpful to some extent, but limited as well. People are more than just names and titles. Why not include those little golden nuggets in the org chart? With PowerPoint, it ain’t gonna happen.

Technology has evolved to enable employees to add all sorts of great information about themselves into the org chart without overcrowding or complicating anything. In fact, today’s org chart apps work so much like the familiar social apps, you can learn quite a bit about your coworkers without really trying. You will see not only a name and title, but a personalized photo to boot. Click on that mug shot and wa-la! A treasure trove of information, such as skillset, job function, educational background, specialized training, even pets, hobbies and favorite foods.

4. Organization charts are static.

An inherent problem of the past organizational charts were they became outdated about as soon as they were created. People move around and shift roles, new hires frequently come on board and people leave for various reasons. It was challenging to keep an org chart up to date or to know if you were working from the most current version.

Not anymore. Employees are empowered to keep their information fresh, and they can do it from their device on the go. Administrators can make changes in an instant and because everything resides in the cloud, changes are immediate and there is no problem with version control. The org chart becomes fluid, ebbing and flowing with the heartbeat of the company.

5. Organization charts are difficult to maintain.

This one is pretty much covered in the above, but I’ll hit the point from a different angle. Administrators, HR, departmental leaders and even team leaders bemoaned org charts. It took way too much time to keep current – time that could have been spent doing way more productive tasks that bring more value to the company.

People today are used to updating their social profiles. They add pictures, change their status, create a timeline. Same can be said for modern org chart software. It enables users to treat their real estate on an org chart as a social profile they can customize. Administrative burdens are nearly nil because employees run the show. Of course, HR, managers and other higher ups can set guidelines and have final say on how things look and who makes what kinds of edits, but the bulk of the work is offloaded to the employee.

Download our free eBook here to see how you can determine if org chart software makes sense for your company.

6. Organization charts are rarely used.

Much like my first job, org charts are often passed down to new hires who quickly see just where they stand in an organization and where they aspire to be. They may pop up on a slide or used by managers who are restructuring a department.

Today, however, business organizational charts can be used in many ways, not the least of which is for recruitment and onboarding. Millennials have been raised on crazy technology and expect the companies for which they are employed will extend those capabilities into the workplace. By giving them a fun, interactive, social and mobile way to find and meet coworkers, you are showing them your company is progressive. It will save everyone immeasurable time looking for people and will become a valued resource that is referenced frequently.

7. Organization charts are buried in a file.

Before org charts were put into software apps, they were generally printed and filed away in some crypt that rarely saw the light of day. Managers may pull it up on their computer and then bury it on their documents folder. If someone asked for it, give them a half hour and they might come up with it – but it may not be the latest version. No one knew.

By placing the chart into a mobile app, users can access the information from anywhere, anytime, from any networked device. They literally have the entire company network at their fingertips. The best part? It’s always current, always editable.

8. Organization charts are boring.

If you’ve read up to this point, you should already be convinced that today’s business organization chart is far from boring. If I’ve done my job, you now see how the org chart has been completely reinvented from the lines and boxes of yesteryear.

Give yourself and your employees an org chart they’ll actually want to use, one that will foster collaboration and brotherhood/sisterhood, an app they access 24×7 to find the right person without wasting so much time. They may just learn something about each other they never knew.

Can your current org chart do the same? If not, the Grim Reaper is lurking. It’s time to take a look at org chart software and give him what he came for.  

Cameron Nouri
by Cameron Nouri I am the Director of Growth at Pingboard. I consider myself an entrepreneur at heart. I love trying new things and taking educated risks on new ventures, both professionally and in my personal life. I bring that passion to work everyday where I enjoy helping others discover the power that Pingboard can unlock.