“Start ups” are all the rage these days. Almost everyone across North America likely has a family member or friend in the throes of running  a new business. 

As the saying goes, “necessity is the mother of invention”.  The necessity driving this trend for many people has been finding work (or perhaps finding more meaningful work).  Some are pursuing a lifelong dream, a recently developed passion, or the freedom and challenge of doing “their own thing”.

With this start-up craze in full force lots of attention is also being paid to what factors make start-ups successful.  One of the many themes that gets talked about as companies develop their new products and services is the distinction between “pain killers” and “vitamins”. 

Which got us thinking about org charts….Are they really painkillers or vitamins? Or just a pain?

The concept is pretty simple. In a “product” context it is straight forward enough.

“Painkillers are products that address existing needs/pain points. Companies  selling painkillers harvest customer demand; the prospects are already searching  for someone to fix their problem and take their money.

Vitamins on the other hand don’t really address an immediately apparent need.  Instead, the vitamin company must sell a prospect on  how their solution will make the prospect’s life better; that the prospect has a  need that isn’t being met, even if they didn’t realize it themselves.


The problem with vitamins is that it’s hard to get people to pay for them and  once you have them as customers, hard to keep them paying. Painkillers on the  other hand are sticky. Once you start using it, you’re hooked.”

The concept can also be applied in other areas – our own workplace activities for example. 

How much time do you spend working on org charts?  How often are they used by anyone at your company?  Does anyone really care?  Are they nice to haves, or need to haves in your company? 

In short, when you are creating and publishing org charts, are you producing painkillers or vitamins?

This is an easy question to ask, but a harder one to answer.  And why should anyone care, anyway!

Going back to start-ups for a minute, one commentator summarizes the reasons we care as follows:

“Of course everyone wants to think their product is a “must have” painkiller, but very few are. Another question I ask is “Who will pay for this, and how much will they pay?” The last question I ask myself is “Is this a product or a feature?” Meaning, will this product/service stand on its own and generate revenue? Or is it really a feature that should be incorporated into an existing product?”

You see here the analysis from a “venture capital” point of view – all about generating revenues and creating a sustainable business…since this is how they make their money.  The bigger the pain, and the more you will pay for it to be solved, the better.  The painkiller versus vitamin assessment is seen in that context.

In the same vein, you can ask where your org charts fit.  What lasting value do they create or deliver in your organization? 

Revenues are the wrong metric, but what is the right one?  Accurate information?  Opportunities for engagement?  Productivity gains?  Lower employee turnover?  Why are org charts created at your company?  Why, how and how often (and by whom outside of HR) are they used?

Does it really matter if they are seen as a painkiller or a vitamin in your company? 

Perhaps not.  After all, making sure you get your vitamins is important, and it can be enjoyable too.


But if your org charts are being used infrequently, or the answer to the question of what value they are delivering is “not much”, maybe they don’t just fall into the “vitamin” category…they may be stale vitamins at that; the ones sitting at the back of the shelf in the kitchen or bathroom several months past their Best Before date.  In short, maybe they just suck.

If they are a focal point of usage – from assisting in business strategy through communicating organizational design to fostering a more transparent culture for employee engagement – you are likely well on your way to creating a “painkiller”.

If you are concerned that they are not even being looked at, then maybe your current efforts fall into the “pain” category alone – you’re likely using a cumbersome tool and process, and wondering why you are bothering to do it at all.

At Organimi our hunch is that, for many organizations, org charts and the process of making them are a vitamin; and for the HR and IT personnel responsible for maintaining and updating them, simply a pain.

We’re working to change that.  Simply awesome org charts, created in minutes, that can help promote a dynamic, engaged work environment for your teams.

Cloud based.  Accessible to everyone you invite.  Easy to deploy, use and change. 

Pain killer or vitamin?  You tell us.  Check them out.