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Colin Devroe

Reverse Engineer. Blogger.

How Flat Work Environments Kill Successful Companies

September 28, 2012

Matt Van Hoven:

Bottom line, flat structures create confusion about where power lies, because eventually someone has to be in charge – whether because a client demands it or a job won’t get done unless someone takes charge.

Van Hoven leaves off an important point; it really depends on the type of start-up whether or not a flat structure will work. He’s lumping all start-ups into the same bunch and that is never fair to do. Some companies may never need to deal with an agency, as he proposes, or have any reason to work with companies that wouldn’t understand its structure.

But then you have exceptions to this rule as well. Companies such as Valve, Apple, Facebook, and others that have pulled off this flat structure tophenomenalsuccess. The difference? Having key management positions in place at the top of each team but then going flat everywhere else. Each team can be flat while all teams answer to a CEO, COO, etc. Apple is structured like 100 start-ups all working together but everyone knows who is in charge at the top.

A flat structure can be confusing to outside organizations, especially if you’re dealing with companies that aren’t flat, but you can pull it off if you work at it … and you can even succeed.

/via Darryl Rentz.