The Space Between the Boxes

There’s a myth in organizations that the org chart can hold the total of the work that the organization performs.  It’s a persistent myth and it’s lack of truth seems to have no effect on its power.


My conclusion is that the myth is self-sealing, in the sense that the lack of value in the spaces between the org chart is challenged often by the statement, “If it mattered enough, there would be a box on the org chart.”  Can you see the circular logic?

Hence, most change agents seek to combat their lack of position by creating a role they can fill and do their knitting-together-the-organization work.  Sadly, this rarely happens and even if it does, it is often the first box chopped when the org tree is trimmed.

So what are we, the change agents, to do?

Here’s one process we could try:

1. Name the limits of the org chart as a map of the organization.  Yes, it shows well official reporting structures.  Yes, paired with job descriptions it can capture a majority of the work performed.

2. Ask the group to name things that aren’t contained within the org chart and job descriptions that must, and do, get done.

3. Ask what would the organization be like if those relationships didn’t exist and those tasks didn’t get done.

4. Brainstorm ways to keep these unseen relationships and tasks visible within your organization.  I can come up with a few ideas for how to do this.  Can you? Share them in the comments.


Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time making the present-but-unseen visible in organizations.  This visualizing the essential tasks of the invisible organization is a great next step toward making organizations more successful, more robust, and more joyous.

I’m ready to help them see.  Are you?

Why not try?

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