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Seb Anthony

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flattening structures


I am working with an organisation that has grades that describe six levels of accountability. The principles of this approach are:
•There is only one layer of management at each work level
•Structures are organised from the customer upwards
•Broaden spans of support so we have fewer, bigger jobs that provide individuals with the space to learn and grow

I have been asked to implement the grading system in a country in the Far East. This country has:

•14 grades based with hierarchical job titles
•A culture where seniority and job titles are highly valued.
•Existing structures have many layers and narrow spans
•Unclear accountabilities and decision making
•A successful and busy business
•Support from the Leadership Team as long as there is minimal disruption
•There will be some anxiety from staff

does anyone have any advice on how you would go about implementing the structure in the new territory?

many thanks for any wisdom you can pass my way

Richard Rogers

2 Responses

  1. Common Issue
    This is a common issue in many multi-nationals which have deliberately restricted the number of management layers between the Global Group CEO and the lowest job in the organisation. GE, Unilever, ICI and others have used this model. The best UK academic explaining it is Gillian Stamp at Brunel. Each layer must make an additive and distinctive contribution.
    This approach should not be confused with grades. A 14 grade structure can fit in to a 6 layer model very easily – the grades measure size of job, not a job’s position in the layers. I found working this in Japan to be really tough, but it was easier in ASEAN countries. The Development answer is the usual one – present the teams involved with both sets of thinking, and facilitate them coming up with answers that meet both sets of needs. Do not try to impose Western preceptions of subjects such as age on to audiences that will not be receptive.

  2. Flattening the structure
    We had a broadly similar problem to solve when 2 client companies merged. They had a number of divisions each with a differnet structure and levels. We create 6 distinct grades each with a broad wage span.
    Each level had a specific responsibility level. To be called a “manager” you had to have a team to manage. To be called “Director” you had to have P&L responsibility.
    Within each grade there was space to grow and progress through sub-grades but to move from one level to the next there had to be a business requirement for that role.
    We were able to fit everyone into the different grades.
    The solution to your problem may well be to create 6 master levels incorporationg the 14 current ones.
    Recognising the sensitivity of titles it mat be possible to do this almost invisibly!
    Good Luck!


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