Start Breaking Down the Chain of Command in Your Organization

Vehicle owners often devote a substantial amount of time and energy to care and maintenance. In principle, this is good, sensible, even virtuous. It shows respect for the value of a significant purchase.

But in practice, we can get caught up in the ritual, even when reality has moved on.

Maybe without thinking, you’re endlessly washing, waxing, and re-applying paint over the years. When the costs add up, getting a nano-ceramic coating for your car actually makes more sense. And it even frees you up to lavish your attention on the interior, which can really improve passenger hygiene.

Such thinking pitfalls can manifest in many aspects of our lives. And they’re challenging to deal with at the organizations where we work.

Consider the chain of command: we assume that having one is how things work. We build rituals around reporting to higher-ups and delegating to subordinates, but are we really just wasting time on unnecessary meetings?

It may be time to move on from this model of organization.

A structure of control

A hierarchy based on the chain of command model is something we’ve been relying on for most of the 20th century. Given how it narrows down towards the top, it might seem to be a tool for concentrating power. But at heart, this is really a structure designed to increase control.

A well-defined chain of command is vital to impose order on an organization’s operations. It creates a path for accountability and interactions, improving clarity and efficiency.

Employees are led by their frontline managers, who report to middle management, and from there, you go to the C-suite. Everyone knows their place, who’s in charge, and who matters in the fulfillment of their functions.

Without this sort of structure, it’s easy to see how operations can break down and devolve into chaos. A lack of accountability leads to missed deadlines and failed objectives, no real communication or leadership, and low morale.

Increasing complexity

However, the 21st century has already evidenced itself to be very different from the one that preceded it.

We live in the age of information, high-speed internet, big data, social networks, and smartphones. Communication is instantaneous, non-stop, and constantly at our fingertips.

The pace of technological development and its ensuing impacts on society is making the world a much more chaotic and unpredictable place. Almost every year, it seems that we’re seeing game-changing innovations and widespread disruptions across multiple industries.

Along with these changes, the employees of today are becoming increasingly capable and skilled. This is partly out of necessity, as the world of work is changing so rapidly that workers must be constantly learning and adapting to stay competitive.


It means that your frontline employees are a valuable resource, not only for their designated tasks but for the potential knowledge they can contribute.

The modern era is witnessing spectacular growth in complexity and volatility of outcomes. And rigid, controlling hierarchies are the last thing we need in this situation.

Companies that maintain a strict chain of command today will find that it actually functions as a bottleneck. Having to flow through the chain slows down communication relative to the speed that’s actually available. Diverse ideas from every corner of the organization get filtered out by unimaginative middle managers far removed from frontline realities.

Embracing change

If your organization retains this hierarchical model, it might be solely out of habit and inertia. After all, people are often reluctant to change.

Rigid control was possible and created clear advantages in an age of simple considerations. It’s now outdated and obsolete. These times demand a greater ability to respond rapidly to nonlinear, unpredictable, and uncontrollable outcomes.

Let go of your ritual devotion to the idea that organizations must be structured, top-to-bottom, with a clear chain of command.

The present and future of work are all about building organic relationships. Lead by not leading. Stop insisting on command and control. Don’t confine people in boxes or compartmentalize operations.

Explore the possibilities of a flatter structure, where there are nominal leaders, but employees are encouraged to speak up and have easy access to the organization’s decision-makers.

Make a difference from a management position by embracing paradoxical leadership. This transformation enables better perspective-taking across the organization. It allows you to reap the benefits of diversity and inclusion, empowering employees to make greater contributions and encouraging innovation.

Nonlinear organization is not only possible; it’s the best way to thrive in modern circumstances. We have to start acknowledging that nurturing a web of intricate relationships can only enrich what we do and offer alternative ways of leading people.

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