The end of hierarchy? (1)

By Siegfried Lautenbacher Apr 12, 2016
The end of hierarchy? (1)

Translation of the Original Article by Siegfried Lautenbacher 

Is hierarchy dying off? Or what does all this talk about the end of hierarchy mean? We would like to shed some light on this with this small series.

Picture: Oliver Tacke - Hierarchie on Flickr. Use under the terms of the Creative Commons BY (Attribution).



On Thursday, April 21st 2016 a Digital Workplace Meetup with the title “The end of hierarchy? New organization models of the future”will take place in Berlin at the "St. Oberholz Zehdenicker", which is supported by us. Detailed information is here.

We want to deliver content issues and discussion events with four short articles. There will be the following four brief blogposts:

     1.     Why the end of hierarchy will come.

2.     The era of corporate democracy  or: How Andreas Zeuch sees it.

3.     Wirearchy – So that decisions are made at the right places.

4.     Next Organization: Which organizational models are currently in vogue.

Following the Meetups there will be again positioning and a summary provided by us at Beck et al. Services.


Why the end of hierarchy will come

If you want to talk about the end of the hierarchy, then of course you have to explain first why hierarchy was ever created in the first place or was possibly necessary. Whereby we consider this more in the context of occupational organizations, i.e. not in the context of a state structure or the military, which certainly would also be an interesting question. On the other hand is in turn directly related to our topic. The model for the formation of operational organizations under Taylorism was namely the strictly hierarchical command structure of the military.



Undoubtedly, Taylorism has historically had great successes regarding the cooperation of people. It was probably even necessary, because with its help it was possible to bring quite a lot of people together in one place in space and time, in the factory or the company and to arrange, to synchronously operate the machines together and thus produce products. The necessary cultural change for that has been described repeatedly in the context of industrial sociology: learning discipline, diligence and industriousness as stable or uniform making-available of work performance throughout the day (lat. = industria). But the side effects were well observed from the beginning: Thinking in positions instead of tasks and functions, a strong bureaucracy and increasing costs by a huge administrative apparatus, which includes various levels of power and resulted in highly defined "functional silos" (departments or divisions).


The (digital) lifting of location constraints

So for us, the starting point of the digital revolution is the completely new way to organize cooperation digitally. Linked to this is the ability, to convert knowledge and information of people into a digital way of common exchange and communication. The digital space for action enables huge flexibility and comprehensiveness in the joint interaction of employees, especially for large or transnational organizations through the spatial and temporal delimitation of cooperation (asynchrony). The lifting of the location constraint directly leads to the resolution of the hierarchy. Because the emerging business organization is a network structure. 

Networking instead of Hierarchy

Hierarchy will dissolve, because the connected work is also economically more efficient. At any rate if the conditions for a networked cooperation are created. Because only based on the formation of (peer) groups (empowerment), our linguistic usage of communities, and their removal from the hierarchy (empowerment), the digital revolution will complete. This in turn leads to specific new forms of decision-making. Democratic decision-making. This is subject of Part 2 of this small series.

We are looking forward to a discussion - virtually or on April 21st in Berlin!