Every business needs a boss

No great organisation was ever built without clear lines of command.

Managing for profit by Peter Hughes

Imagine what would happen on a sports field if each player wasn’t clear as to their position and no one was appointed captain.

Chaos! It’s a silly example, but it happens in businesses all the time. I often ask, “Who is your boss?” and get a hesitant answer, or something like, “When it comes to HR issues it’s X, and with production it’s Y”. When this happens, there is always a problem.

I have yet to come across a highly successful organisation where there is more than one boss at the top. When one person takes control, everyone knows where they stand and to whom they are accountable.

Do you have an organogram? What does it look like? The three-tier version (see Figure 1) is the most common way of setting out an organisational hierarchy.

Number 1 is the overall boss, responsible for performance of the entire section or organisation. Numbers 2, 3 and 4 on the second tier report to number 1. He or she is their boss, and they in turn are the bosses of numbers 5, 6, 7 and 8.

This is not to say that number 6 on the bottom tier might not often talk with number 4 or even number 1, but they will never take instructions from anyone other than their boss – number 2.

More importantly, number 1 on the top tier should never, ever give an instruction to anyone other than the managers on the second tier. Bosses who interfere in this way are a major cause of confusion, and it happens often!

The tier style is sometimes criticised as not fully illustrative of the complementary roles and responsibilities between managers, and assumes everyone operates in their own little boxes. It can be misinterpreted this way, but its strength is that it quite clearly indicates the hierarchy and chain of command.

Sometimes, though, an organogram is drawn as in Figure 2. Its adherents argue that this more accurately emphasises the coordinating role played by the number 1 manager in the organisation.

Another style, preferred by some academics in the management field, can be seen in Figure 3. They argue that, in the real world, members of organisations have such complex overlapping roles and responsibilities, that this is the most accurate way of depicting how a company operates. It’s a bit of a mess to me, but it certainly does demonstrate the concept of team work, without which no business ever became great.

Whichever way you choose to depict your organogram, make sure your team members follow the three inviolate golden rules of building a smoothly running management structure:

  • Every employee, from top to bottom, must be quite clear about whom they report to, and to whom they are responsible.
  • No one has two bosses. This simply doesn’t work. 
  • No boss ever gives an instruction to an employee other than those who report directly to him or her.