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How Flat Is Your Start Up?

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The school of thought around agile working methodology grows by the day, with this way of working, first emergent in the software industry, now being transplanted to other sectors with huge amounts of success. When taking your business from a solo concern to one which hires, it pays to think through the structure in a cohesive way. You may only be hiring for one or two positions at the moment, but think about the eventual shape you’d like your business to take on, and you can then lay the groundwork for that structure ahead of time. A flat organisation isn’t something you might have considered off the bat, but it could be just what your business needs. There are a lot of positives to using a flatter model. If you want a company which is great at making quick decisions, keeping your staff turnover to a minimum through improved satisfaction or maintain a specific company culture through periods of fast growth, then it’s a good fit with those aspirations. It’s not for every business out there, but most who are emerging into a globally competitive market place are going to want to be able to move quickly, to keep pace with shifting customer requirements and changes in the macroenvironment while extracting maximum profit

How Does A Flat Structure Operate? 

Using a flat structure may be very new to you if you have only worked in large corporates with very hierarchical, siloed organisation charts before starting up your own business. Instead of a top down management, you have self-organised teams who operate with autonomy. Instead of a constant series of decisions made by team leaders and senior managers, you now have decision making taking place within the unit of the team. You can choose core teams such as finance or tech, and complement them with multi-disciplinary teams tasked with projects to complete. 

How Can I Make It Work? 

The key to making it all hang together is developing a strong company culture and a vision which everyone shares and is intimate with. Trust and transparency are the most important values and they must be evidenced in order for the structure to work. In this scenario, each employee becomes like an entrepreneur themselves, following through on a specific user story. Of course, it can be very challenging go grant this kind of autonomy at first, but it’s actually quite rare for it to go wrong – provided you’ve hired in the right talent to make it work. 

Develop Your Employee Base

A flat working structure gives your employees the chance to develop specialist skills – from knowing financing for merchants like the back of their hand to being able to develop a functional marketing strategy – and everyone also gets to develop their leadership capabilities, which is a huge plus – both to them as individuals and your company as a whole. You may have thought you were aiming for a meritocracy anyway, but making your company flatter is an even more radical change that shows you are investing in your staff as people, and could lead to huge rewards as the company culture becomes geared around entrepreneurialism and constant iterative improvements.

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