New year’s resolution: Adopt a new management paradigm
August 15, 2011 | 11:05 am CDT
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Often when a CEO (or manager) feels the urgency to achieve a certain level of performance or to reach important goals, he or she tends to forget that people with the correct attitudes are critical to success. Usually the desired end result is communicated through a chain of command in a larger company, or directly to the employees or a shop foreman in smaller plants. And naturally, managers expect results — even though little or no time is spent soliciting questions or listening to feedback from those that are going to do the work.  

This has worked this way for eons. The only trouble is that the employees can feel used or even exploited in this scenario.  There can be a feeling within the ranks that all “they” want is for us to do this job no matter how difficult.  This results in an unhealthy relationship between managers who know what needs to be accomplished and employees who know how to do it.
I have written before about how important it is to fulfill the emotional requirements of employees to feel needed, important and an integral part of the company. Without exception, I have found that companies that fulfill these intrinsic needs are more successful. This is accomplished by empowering employees to use their creativity and skills to make a difference in the success of the company beyond operating a machine, sweeping the floor or doing something the same way in which they were trained months or years ago.

From time to time I review the “organizational chart” of companies in our industry in order to quickly determine how they have structured their business to accomplish its mission. A typical company is likely to have a chart similar to the one top right. You will notice that I have crossed out that illustration because it does not depict the corporate structure or the lines of communication that are needed to be effective today.

I’m not saying that you should not have job responsibilities and well defined working relationships between company employees and associates. To the contrary, these are important. What I am saying is that it is time to adopt a new paradigm that will work during the coming decade and beyond — one that recognizes the employee’s need for a sense of accomplishment and self worth.

Thus, I have included a metaphorical chart (bottom right) that depicts a wheel with a hub, spokes and an outer rim. This organizational chart represents a company structure that empowers employees in a way that could never be illustrated by the hierarchal chart on the right.

The Hub
The diagram on the bottom is a hub that represents the management of the company and is where the business decisions will be made that guide the company in meeting goals and objectives. There are no “lines of responsibility” because the management team exists to support each other and the rest of the company. Also, there are no hierarchal diagrams as everyone is part of the same team, albeit under the guidance of management.

This management team (M in the hub) must communicate its goals and objectives and provide others with the needed resources and support. Employees, too, must be empowered to think for themselves and contribute to a continuous improvement approach to doing their jobs.

The paradigm of hierarchical management and the typical organizational chart are becoming obsolete. They are being replaced by the new paradigm of management at the hub of empowered employees.

The Spokes
The spokes of this chart represent the communication lines from management to any member of any team, operating unit or individual. A strong wheel and a strong company must maintain all spokes. If any ever fails, the organization will be weakened.

It is noteworthy that each spoke extends not from a single person, but from the ring of the management team. There are no sacred cows or turf to protect when it comes to who has access to whom, because everyone has access to every employee of the company. This is how teams are built and maintained. This is how companies are successfully transformed and all kinds of waste are reduced.

Each spoke in the chart terminates at a department, team or individual, depicting that indeed everyone has a connection to the core management of the company.

Legislation that can impact your company
It is important to structure your company so that the way you achieve results energizes your employees or associates and confirms that they are part of a great team and are highly valued for their contributions to your company’s success.

There are two forms of legislation that I believe will have a dramatic impact on your company. The first is the “Card Check Act,” or “Employee Free Choice Act,” which is again before Congress, which in my mind, opens the doors for unions. (See May 2009 Management Matters.)

Now also under discussion is the “Re-Empowerment of Skilled and Professional Employees and Construction Tradeworkers (RESPECT) Act.” In my opinion, if enacted this bill would redefine and severely limit which workers the existing National Labor Relations Act classifies as supervisors.

For more on my views of these legislative acts, and their impact on industry, read my blog at

The Outer Rim

The outer rim represents the place where the rubber meets the road and is connected to the management hub by the communication spokes.  Multiple boxes are positioned on the rim representing the teams of people and individuals who are doing the work to meet customers’ demands. There is no hierarchy on the rim as it is an unending circle that serves to hold the wheel together.   

The chart rim is connecting all of these operating units such as teams, departments, lines, etc. and represents the communications links between all of the operating units. There is no difference in their level of importance or worth to the company as they all enjoy equal standing and mutual respect. The company must utilize these communications channels so the entire company is on the same page and working as an effective team.

It becomes imperative for you to resolve to have a paradigm shift for the New Year and scrap the old organizational chart. Your company’s success and future may depend on it.

That said, have a happy and successful new year!

Tom Dossenbach is the president of Dossenbach Associates Inc., a Sanford, NC-based international consulting and research firm. Contact him at (919) 775-5017 or e-mail [email protected].


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About the author
Tom Dossenbach