Radically Simplify Your Organizational Chart


From Seth we learn of Manu’s take on the organizational charts of Apple, Oracle, Facebook, Amazon, Google, and Microsoft. Fun and bitingly smart doodles.

Organization charts are important. But too many of them lose focus on who the real boss is. Hint, it’s not the CEO.

A chapter from my book, TRIBAL KNOWLEDGE, explains the true school company culture of Starbucks and how they look at organizational charts. In reading it, you’ll learn who the REAL BOSS is.

Radically Simplify Your Organizational Chart

originally published in 2006

When companies grow, their organizational charts also grow. Business growth spawns newly created and highly reorganized departments, which transform a once-simple organizational chart into a labyrinth of boxes connected via a series of straight and dashed lines. Starbucks is no exception.

Whenever Starbucks undergoes a major corporate reorganization and redraws its organizational structure, which usually happens once every 18 months, executive management does two things. First, Starbucks execs remind corporate employees that while their proverbial cheese has been moved, employees must not hem and haw about the changes. Instead, Starbucks employees should scurry about and sniff around to adjust to the new organizational alignment.

The second thing Starbucks execs do is remind employees that no matter what organizational and departmental management changes take place, there is only one boss that truly matters—the customer.

If you wanted to illustrate what this would look like in terms of your organizational chart, you would see a straight line going from the customer to each and every employee, no matter his or her place in the corporate hierarchy:

To make it simple, Starbucks hammers home the point by dusting off and distributing this radically streamlined, vintage organizational chart from deep inside the company’s cultural chambers:

It’s natural that with growth comes more complexity in organizational structures—specifically, that there are more people in the middle, overseeing these employees and reporting to those supervisors. What Starbucks realizes is that nowhere, in most organizational charts, is a box for the customer.

At Starbucks, no matter where you are in the org chart, there is a direct line connecting you to the customer, which bypasses all other lines of the company hierarchy.

The Starbucks culture believes there is only one organizational chart that truly matters to a customer-first business, and that one has every employee symbolically reporting to the real boss—the customer.

Leading Questions…

1. Is your company’s organizational chart simple and easy for everyone to understand? Does it make sense to people who work in the company?
2. Where is the customer in your company’s organizational chart?