For several years now, collaborative working has been a common feature in companies. Digital transformation has encouraged the development of new tools that facilitate collaboration between employees, teams and departments within an organisation.
Today, companies are adopting this way of working to manage their projects more efficiently, favour communication, and encourage the sharing of information and resources. Global collaboration and project-based operations help break down organisational silos.
However, your employees don’t start collaborating together overnight. There are factors that can make or break collaboration. The hierarchical structure of your organisation is one such factor. Here’s how it works.
What is the hierarchical structure?
Most companies operate with a hierarchical structure. This is the traditional pyramid scheme with the company director at the top. Below that are the directors of each department, then one step lower, the managers or team leaders. And finally, the base of the pyramid is made up of the employees who report to the managers. The number of levels in the pyramid depends on the size of the company.
This mode of operation is very hierarchical and based on top-down management and communication. Each employee receives his or her instructions and answers directly to the person above him or her. Thus, each level is responsible for the lower levels and must report to the higher levels. The higher you go, the more power and responsibility you have.
The hierarchical structure is opposed to a horizontal (or transversal) organisation which is based on collaboration and favours team or project work. The hierarchy disappears and supervision is minimal. All employees are on an equal footing and everyone is involved in decision-making. In a flat organisation, the manager is a facilitator, a coach who guides the team towards the achievement of its objectives.
How does the hierarchical structure influence collaboration?
As you can imagine, a pyramid structure is not ideal for collaboration in your company, for several reasons.
A rigid organisation
In a company with a hierarchical structure, collaboration remains compartmentalised within the teams. There is little or no cross-functional communication, i.e. between the different departments. Each person works separately to achieve their own objectives or those of their department, without taking into account the company’s strategic objectives.
A long decision-making process
Since all decisions have to go through the different levels of the pyramid, the validation of a task or a new idea can take a long time. This has an impact on the performance of the teams, but also on their motivation.
Communication is the key to effective and successful collaboration. However, in a hierarchical structure, there can be communication problems. Firstly, between the different levels of the hierarchy, because if you are not in direct contact with the right person, your request will have to go through several intermediaries before it is processed. It may then be lost or changed along the way.
Secondly, between the same hierarchical levels, because if employees from different departments work together on the same project, they may not operate in the same way. These differences can cause communication problems, have a negative impact on collaboration and affect the work of the group.
Rivalry between teams
Instead of uniting and collaborating, different teams in a hierarchical organisation work independently to achieve their own goals and the success of their department. Poor communication, or lack of it, makes them feel as if they are competing with each other, when in fact they are all contributing to the main mission of the organisation.
4 tips for fostering collaboration in your company
Does your organisation have a hierarchical structure? Don’t worry, you can encourage collaboration between your teams by following these tips.
Focus on transparent communication
The idea is that all levels of the hierarchy share key company information (strategy, financial situation, future plans, etc.) with all employees. Leaders and managers should tell their employees what is expected of them and how they can contribute together to achieving the organisation’s strategic goals. By doing so, employees will want to be more involved in the life of the organisation.
Create a supportive work environment
The working environment is essential to encourage collaboration. Open up the space and create pleasant places where employees will want to come together to work. Well-being at work is important for having enthusiastic, motivated and productive employees.
Provide the right tools
With the rise of remote working, many teams are becoming dispersed and collaboration can be affected. It is therefore essential to provide your employees with the right tools to easily work and communicate with each other, regardless of their location.
Project management software such as Wimi to manage your projects and tasks efficiently; a messaging and video system to communicate in real time; a corporate social network to follow company news and strengthen team cohesion; a document sharing tool to exchange your files easily and quickly.
Encourage knowledge sharing
Collaboration is about pooling skills, knowledge and experience to make faster progress towards a common goal. Your employees all have knowledge that they can pass on and share with their colleagues. By encouraging knowledge sharing and peer learning within your organisation, you are encouraging employees to develop their skills, and you are encouraging innovation and collaboration.
The hierarchical structure of your organisation influences the collaboration between your employees. Even without a flat organisation, you can encourage your staff to collaborate more with these tips. It’s up to you!