In the world of organizational structures, your options are many, and choosing the best one for your company is a lot like picking out a new car. Although you are looking for something that can get you from A to B—all cars can do that—there are a bunch of additional options. Do you want an automatic or manual? Gas or electric? Four-wheel drive? Built-in GPS?

If you opt for the right structure with all the right features, you will build an org chart that represents clarity and organization. Get it wrong, however, and it can end up being a rigid and confusing top-down hierarchical nightmare.

We get that understanding all the different structures can be difficult… never mind settling on one to use for yourself! That is why we have put together a list of five org chart styles that we love.

What is an Org Chart?

But first—what is an org chart?

An org chart (also called an “organigram” or “organogram”) is a diagram that shows the structure of an organization and the relationships and relative ranks of its parts and positions or jobs.

As humans, we are naturally wired to look for a hierarchy in social situations—a work environment is one of these, albeit a formal one—and org charts map these out. Throughout the years, the org chart (that maps out the structure of each organization) has remained a staple component of the business world.

What Makes A Good Org Chart?

Org charts come in many varieties and can serve many different purposes. However, there are a few key features that all good org charts share. Here are three elements of a ”good” org chart:

  1. It includes everyone. An org chart must represent everyone. This means every single person and/or individual area in the company.
  2. It provides clarity. Employees must be able to use an org chart as a reference tool that instantly tells them who reports to whom and how information should flow.
  3. It is accessible. Your team members must be able to access your org chart(s) whenever they need to, wherever they may be.

Any org chart that achieves these three goals helps to bring clarity to your organization and eliminates confusion amongst and between employees and teams.

5 Org Chart Styles We Love

1. The Classic ‘Pyramidical’ Org Chart

You are probably familiar with the classic org chart: the pyramid. It is also called the “hierarchical” org chart and is the most conventional and commonly used one because it is structured by rank.

In this type of structure, employees are grouped with every employee having one clear supervisor. Grouping can be done based on many factors such as function, location, product, and more. Many large companies adopt this style because everything funnels up to the top and its primary benefit is that it provides a clear chain of command for organizations that need them.

2. The Matrix Org Chart

A matrix chart looks similar to a table and is designed to provide a visual representation of dual reporting. It is ideal where employees have two or more reporting relationships or two or more managers — generally to both a project/product and functional manager, or to both a regional and department manager. 

The matrix structure provides much-needed flexibility where employees who belong to one team are temporarily working with another or where multiple projects are currently live, for example.

3. The Horizontal Org Chart

This is also sometimes referred to as a “left-to-right” chart. Companies tend to use these to avoid the top-down oppressive and hierarchical feel by literally flipping the classic org chart on its side.

Although a horizontal org chart pretty much does the same job as a classic org chart, there is no single entity “on top” of the company—the leader is positioned to the far left and the rest of the organization flows to the right.

4. The Circular Org Chart

Although it may sound drastically different to the three structures already covered, the circular structure still relies on hierarchy. In it, higher-level employees sit in the inner rings closer to the core of the circle while the lower-level employees occupy the outer rings.

The thought behind the circular structure again has a lot to do with perceived hierarchy. Instead of sitting on top, leaders and executives sit closer to the idle and radiate their vision outwards rather than send their directives down the chain of command.

From an ideological perspective, this structure promotes better communication and the free flow of information because it depicts individuals and department as being one of the same. In contrast, the traditional structure shows different departments (or individuals) as occupying their own branches.

5. The Flat Org Chart

Where a more traditional structure creates multiple levels of managers and supervisors between lower-level staff, the flat structure limits these so that all members of staff sit closely to leaders.

The flat structure is meant to empower self-management and promote a feeling of relative autonomy at all levels. This is thought to make employees more productive as they feel less hierarchy-related pressure. It is most often used by smaller companies, however, its use at large organizations is not completely unheard of.