There is a lot of talk these days about “organizational transparency”.   

In this blog, we hope to have a little fun with this topic, as it relates to org charts and organizational design.

The transparency “thing” has been going on as a topic of corporate governance since long before The Naked Corporation was published. However, that book certainly catalyzed thinking around how the Internet was redefining what transparency had come to mean, in an era of increasing connectivity, and what the stakes would be for organizations that didn’t recognize and embrace this….and that book was published a decade ago, in 2003, when the players that have come to define the “social business” movement (Facebook, Apple’s iPhone, the Google business platform, LinkedIn, Salesforce and others) had barely arrived on the scene.

Organizational Transparency:  What It Means For Your Org Charts

Most of this discussion is about “stakeholders” – relationships, disclosure, alignment and accountability.  In a recent blog post on The Pros and Cons of Organizational Transparency, Drumm McNaughton describes transparency as a “new form of competitive advantage” that helps create trust among stakeholders, inform decision making and generate greater participation.  He writes:

“Full transparency generally requires everyone in the organization to know what the specific goals are and how they’re going to be measured…Being transparent is more than good policy. It’s a way of ensuring your employees stay satisfied.  You trust them with the information and in turn, they reward you with loyalty.”

In another recent article entitled The ‘Naked Organization’ Gets Nakeder Ed Frauenheim the senior editor at shares his conversations with IBM staffers about where performance management, crowdsourcing and social media are heading. 

He describes a near future where the “comments”, “endorsements” and “ratings” more common to the social platforms like Linked In, Salesforce Chatter and the consumer sites like Expedia and TripAdvisor will become more widely shared internally, and even publicly disclosed for senior managers and potentially used as recruiting tools (you’ll “Like” our managers, honest!! check out their ratings). 

Attention bosszillas – can you feel the fabric slipping away? Love this image from Ed’s blog!

For those of you more comfortable with things like performance reviews being “private, internal affairs” and with the idea that “bosses get to see ratings of underlings, not the other way around” you likely should get used to the idea of keeping the lights on.

We’re not so sure that transparency necessarily translates into better decision making.  It’s also pretty easy to see how creating, sharing and publishing performance review data can be problematic; especially if you have read books like Daniel Kahnenan’s Thinking Fast and Slow — as we outlined in recent blogs – which highlights the significant decision biases we’re all prone to have as human beings.

Even though we all might prefer to keep some things in the dark – at Organimi we have no doubt that organizational transparency is coming…in these ways, and perhaps in some other ways you don’t expect.

Which leads to our question of the day.

Who Owns Your Org Charts Any Way…and Are You Sure?

This discussion may not be popular with HR professionals who have traditionally been the owners (and primary users) of org charts.  It may also not be something the IT staffers responsible for implementation and oversight for your HRMIS systems are enthusiastic about.

But change is coming.  We know this because we at Organimi are part of this change.  And we expect it is change some HR and IT teams may be uncomfortable with – at least initially.  So we think it is important for people to talk about it, and start planning for it.

Change starts with the fact that there is no longer (if there ever was) any “objective reality” that reflects an organizational structure. 

It has always been a pain in the butt to maintain, update and manage organizational charts.  In today’s fast paced business environment, organizational change is happening so dynamically, and organizational boundaries are becoming so fluid, that this thing called the “org chart” is increasingly difficult, if not virtually impossible, for the HR and IT organization to create and manage on their own. 

Demands for change are growing, while availability of HR bandwidth and IT resource support to deal with this is dwindling. 

What to do?

As you might have heard Kim Kardashian’s diamond engagement ring from Kris Humphries is being sold on eBay for a princely $750,000.  

You can think of your org charts in today’s organizations the same way.  Like Kim’s diamond, there are so many multi-faceted dimensions to your organizational structure – regional, divisional, internal, external, full-time / part-time / contingent, credentials – that the old tools are simply no longer capable of reflecting them, much less making it easy to update and manage them.

The stakes are bigger.  The needs are nearer.  And the budgets and time windows are smaller.  What can you do?

Step 1 to transparency is simply the fact that better tools are coming to manage this process.

Step 2, even more profoundly, is acceptance of the consumerization of your organizational model – anyone can create them, manage them, update them….and there is not a lot you can do about it.

Organimi  – inexpensive, robust, useful – is creating ways for individual users – department heads, team managers, regional groups within your organization – to construct the organizational representations they find useful and helpful to their day to day needs. 

We have users from organizations large and small,  HR professionals, small business owners, IT analysts, executive assistants, consulting professionals – all using Organimi.  Why? To get a better understanding of the organizational relationships they have and enable connectivity, connectedness and collaboration with other stakeholders in them. 

Maybe some of them are even creating their own virtual organizations – with them as the leaders LOL.  

These tools will only become more robust, with additional features and capabilities, as usage expands.  And these enhancements will take these tools further and faster along the lines of “consumerization of IT”, “crowdsourcing” and embedding enhanced intelligence about the “people processes” of organizations (recruiting, talent management, performance reviews, and the like) directly and dynamically into these organizational representations. 

So some interesting times are ahead in terms of the process of creating, managing and controlling access to org charts, and all of the organizational design tools and capabilities that come along with them.

Organimi excels at org charts and organizational design.  That is what we do.  So we look forward to seeing these trends develop.

Are Your Org Charts Doors or Windows…& Who Is Using Them?

But this trend is even more profound.  Up until now, we’ve been talking primarily about “internal consumption” – use of better tools within your organization; however you define it. 

Related points to “ownership” or “control” are “use” and “purpose”.  As control over org charts moves to a broader audience, so does their utility to everyone. 

With more and more information capable of being conveniently organized online, a further transformation is under way.  This invites a broader audience of new users external to your business to “map out” your organization, and apply the resulting insights for a range of new applications in marketing, selling, recruiting, competitive intelligence and other areas.

At Organimi, we have been experimenting with some new features that help with this process of information assembly (aka organizational transparency) with these use cases very much in mind.

The target use case here is not the HR team leader but the busines owner, sales leader, entrepreneur, or other golden cheese seeker who wants to get a better understanding of OTHER organizations (read: YOUR organization) – their design, their structure, their people – to advance their own business, sales or other goals.

We’ve laid out a few examples below, that hopefully give a sense of where we see things going….and have some fun in the process.

Notre Dame Football Coaching Staff

The Notre Dame Football Team doesn’t seem to be having a great year.  They’ve dropped off the Top 25 rankings.  I don’t follow them closely but I know the Fighting Irish have their diehard fans, and they all likely have opinions about where the blame falls for their performance so far this year.  So why not check out the coaching staff? 

With more and more information on line and harvestable it is much easier to do this than it used to be.  An easy starting point is to create an org chart for the staff (or the team, if you think it’s the players fault).  Of course if I am Notre Dame’s coaching staff I might want to have my own Organimi for the team, and for my scouts to use to keep track of all the prospects we’re hoping to bring in to improve performance in coming years and put us back on top.

It’s just as easy — for those academically inclined — to create org charts for the organizational behavior group at the Harvard Business School, or for MIT.

The Oscars

So maybe you aren’t into football – or any sports for that matter.

The 85th Oscars are now a few months away.

I love the Oscars, and I’ve always wondered about the Academy.  Sure the dresses are beautiful, and the competition is interesting, but Who IS the Academy?  How are the members involved in the voting process?  Who does an indie film producer need to influence to get on the short list?

Using Organimi I can construct the org chart for the Motion Picture Academy’s Board of Governors easily, start the wheels in motion, and track my progress….digging ever deeper.  I can also start assembling a chart of the members; and figure out where I need to get to.  

Visually mapping the organization is interesting (I didn’t know Ed Begley Junior and Annette Benning were on the Board) and may be useful for me down the road. (I overheard someone on the plane from LA to TIFF in Toronto saying they thought Annette was on the plane…you never know when opportunity strikes).

I can also use this Organimi tool operationally for my own next project …bringing everyone together online in a single organizational view from the executive producers right down to the grips.

Getting Up Close and Personal Is Big Business

You can also see the business applications, as business competition intensifies, and social business networks and relationships become more prevalent. 

Let’s say I work with AT&T, a major global telecommunications provider.  I want to start creating a “virtual organization” architecture for all of my enterprise customers who are currently generating above $25 million in annual revenue to the organization across all its divisions and regions, so their board and senior executive team can be directly connected to my board and senior executive team, and so we can leverage each others’ networks transparently to get things done.  I want everyone to know and be connected with each other; to the extent this can happen in “cyberspace”.  Let’s make that happen. 


I’ll start by sharing my org chart with them, and getting them to create their own and do the same with me.  Not on a piece of paper – that’s old school; we’ll do it online, where we can start sharing profile information – connect, collaborate, communicate, whether we’re in an airport or on the other side of the globe. 

Let’s take these relationships deeper, faster, further.  And let’s not wait for IT to take 12 to 18 months to come up with an implementation project plan to set this initiative in motion…(I’ll be fired by then if my business development team can’t deliver results.)

Let’s start here with our own org chart, and I’ll assign someone on the team for each of their accounts to build up the matching teams at the customer side so we can start that process.  It will be done in a few days.

Checking Out The Hot Stuff: Fast Times At Fast Growth Companies

Tesla is the hottest new, new thing in the auto-industry. 

The Roadster is a thing of beauty.

And Elon Musk is not too bad himself. 

If Tesla was a celebrity she would be a superstar like Angelina Jolie, Linda Evangelista, Marilyn Munroe, Sophia Loren…take your pick.

They say Tesla will take a different approach to the whole value chain for creating and delivering car experiences.  So who is behind this organization?  How fast is it growing? How can we as supplier in the value chain get into a relationship with them.  Let’s create an Organimi and start getting deeper.

So if I am pitching to Tesla, I am thinking let’s figure out who we know, and who we need to get to know.  Let’s align our sales, product development and manufacturing team leads with their teams from the get go.  Let’s build something together with them that is truly unique.  They dare to be different.  Let’s do that too.

And if I am in Tesla it is likely growing so fast I can barely figure out “who’s who in the zoo” before another batch of people are joining – we’re “amping and ramping” these days.  Tools like Organimi can help us sort this out.

Can Org Charts Make You More Open For Business? The Two Transformations

These examples above are simple, but we hope you don’t think they’re simplistic, or silly.

“Blogging” is not for everyone; nor is maintaining a social profile on LinkedIn. 

But most of us creep, stalk, or whatever you call it — and it is getting easier and easier to pull information together for all of the interconnected networked relationships we share – inside and outside of our organizations.

HR and IT are losing control.  It is inevitable…so the question becomes: what is next?  where will we take this? how will we get out in front of this dynamic of change?

The underlying premise of Organimi is that two important transformations are under way that are redefining what organizations are, how they operate, and how this relates to the people within them.

Organizational Transformation: the way people organize themselves and their relationships at work and play is changing, becoming more dynamic and fluid.  More and more of us belong to more “organizational” structures outside of our core, traditional jobs.  This may be because we are now interacting at work with people on our all over the globe, we are changing jobs more frequently, or because we are carrying multiple jobs at once, or because we are engaging in more entrepreneurial activity where we need to create and maintain virtual connections with a more distributed group of partners and suppliers.

Consumerization Trumps Centralization In Organizations: the way people are working is also profoundly changing.  They are remote.  They are always connected or connecting.  The boundaries between their physical and virtual presence “at work” mirrors what is happening with the physical and virtual computing machines they are using and interacting with each other on.  Established centralized bureaucracies are changing.  People can’t wait for IT (or HR) to implement complex systems to deal with creating and managing their organizational relationships.  And if organizational relationship boundaries are extending outside the organization, HR and IT can’t even begin to solve that challenge.  People who need to organize their own views of their organization, and the relationship of their organization with other organizations, will be using their own tools. 

At Organimi, one of the things we think it means is that no one owns your org chart anymore.  Maybe it used to be owned by IT, maybe it was owned by someone in HR.  It was seldom used, usually a static artifact.  In a world of organizational transparency, it can now be and will be so much more.

We hope that for your organization Organimi is part of the solution.  

Check out our white paper. Or just start using Organimi.  Up to 500 members it costs you nothing.  There is zero downside, and as much fun as anyone can get from creating and managing org charts.  Enjoy!