Who hasn’t seen an org chart at work?
Organizational charts are a vital way to help people understand how their team works together. That’s why bosses keep asking for updated org charts and why employees keep wanting to see where they fit into the grander scheme of the organization. When we were building OrgWeaver, we wanted to make this never-ending org chart creation process simpler and faster.
Org charts are vital, but difficult. Ask anyone who has made an org chart with PowerPoint, Word, Excel, Visio, a whiteboard, or any other tool that’s readily available in an office. Below are some difficulties that a creator of an org chart typically encounters:
Org charts can quickly spiral out of control if the purpose isn’t clear. Org charts show reporting relationships. The simplest data you need to create an org chart that shows reporting relationships follows this logic:
- Joan is a person who fills the position of Marketing Analyst.
- Julie is a person who fills the position of Marketing Manager.
- Joan reports to Julie in the unit called Marketing Department.
- Therefore, the Marketing Analyst will be shown as an org chart box below the Marketing Manager.
This logic is very intuitive when you draw your organization by hand on a whiteboard. The trick is to make sure that your data is clean and logical so that a computer can understand it and automatically create an org chart based on that logic.
What if you have messy data and it’s too difficult to clean? That’s when people start drawing org chart boxes by hand and waste countless hours.
Too many boxes, too little space
Let’s assume you’ve turned your data into an org chart on a page (either a physical piece of paper, or a screen on your computer). Now comes the trouble of trying to fit everything in so that it makes sense to people. You have several time-consuming choices:
- Split the org chart across multiple pages (make sure you’re a pro at cutting and pasting repeatedly)
- Make your font size smaller (don’t forget to pass out magnifying glasses with your org chart)
- Remove data (hope that your team is good at mind-reading)
- Abbreviate data (publish a dictionary of abbreviation definitions along with your org chart)
Any choice you make has it’s problems, but you’re usually left with making some uncomfortable compromises with your org chart.
Logical org charts make sense, but are politically unstable. After you’ve fit everything into your org chart, you might hear comments like these:
- “My org chart box is smaller than the other VPs. Make mine bigger because I have a bigger budget”
- “My unit is traditionally to the right of the finance unit because we work together on a lot of tasks”
- “Even though I don’t technically report to the CEO, I think I should in the org chart because she asks for my advice alot”
- “I’m at the same level as John, but he’s on the first page while I’m on the last page. That’s not fair.”
After all of the time you spent just making sure the org chart was functional, these requests for political changes can be very demotivating.
Requests for updates
You’ll also receive lots of requests for practical updates as soon as you’re finished with the political updates. Each request seems small, but they actually have ripple effects across the whole organizational chart. Here are some examples of requests that are easy to say “sure, i’ll do that for you”, but then quickly eat up a day’s work.
- Everyone in Unit A who used to be under Unit B now reports to Unit C
- We’re adding 6 positions in Sales next quarter. Add the positions now, and we’ll fill in the people later.
- Marketing and Communications is split from one unit into two units
- Finance is losing a layer of management and these 5 people will by employees instead of managers
Sharing with the right people
Some employee data is too sensitive for employees to see, but is vital for managers to make good decisions. That’s exactly how one org chart quickly needs to be split into many different versions to be shared with different people.
If you thought making one org chart with messy data, limited space, and endless change requests was difficult, imagine doing the same thing four more times. Just when you’re about to throw your hands up, your boss explains again how important this work is for the strategic direction of the company. Like a good team player, you’re back making versions of your org chart like this:
- Finance needs an org chart that includes aggregate personnel costs by unit
- HR needs an org chart that has detailed employee information
- Executives need an org chart that focuses on headcount changes without getting overwhelmed by the details
- Employees need an org chart with contact information so that they can better collaborate
Making organizational charts quickly
Cheer up. Making organizational charts doesn’t have to be so difficult. The first step is to be clear-eyed about why you’re making an org chart and who needs to provide input. The next step is to consider trying an org chart software that automatically creates organizational charts from data. If you’re able to securely collaborate with accurate data on the same org chart, you’ll be able to do more with less effort. And in the end, the org chart you make together will be a vital part of the next strategic decision your organization makes.