Why You Need To Break Your Chain Of Command
Organizations that operate using a “chain of command” hierarchy are quickly becoming an outdated management model.
A chain of command model takes it’s roots from the military chain of command. It’s the order in which authority and power in an organization is wielded and delegated from top management to every employee at every level of the organization. Instructions flow downward along the chain of command and accountability flows upward.
Proponents of this method feel that the more clear cut the chain of command, the more effective the decision making process and greater the efficiency. Military forces are an example of straight chain of command that extends in unbroken line from the top brass to ranks.
This model of leadership became very prevalent in the mid-20th century but ceases (outside of the military) to have any relevance in today’s organizations, especially those that are looking to have more employee engagement and voice into the overall performance of the company at large.
Where the shortcomings of “chain of command” leadership often happens can be seen in the following simplified example (to which I have seen repeated far too often):
- Employee voices concern to manager based on objective criteria
- Manager makes decision but discounts the validity of employee’s input
- Employee decides to express concern to the manager’s boss
- Manager’s boss says employee needs to follow the “chain of command” and talk to manager
The resulting interactions result in an employee caught in a no-win situation. They walk away feeling disregarded, less valued, and that they cannot voice their concerns if they are not agreed with by their direct boss. As issues continue to come up, and especially with more serious issues, the employee loses more faith in their leadership and will disengage more and more. And any attempt by the employee to circumvent the chain to find a voice for their concerns gets thrown back in the employee’s face for not following the hierarchy.
Where “chain of command” succeeds is enabling poor leadership to manifest, not be bothered by what they don’t feel is important, and keeping leaders at the higher levels less and less accountable for how they engage or value their people.
Where it fails is on all other levels. Leadership accountability, collaborative efforts, shared vision, voice, and values are often minimized or cast aside in favor of the hierarchical “chain”.
This type of leadership also succeeds in defending itself because if it doesn’t fit into the “chain” it will not be recognized.
The most successful and people-oriented engagement models in any organization are those that foster open input from all sources, give avenues for ideas and innovation as well as concerns, and keep upper levels of leadership accountable both from above and below.
Chain of command is a weak leadership mode. Take the time to break it.
(Chain of command definition http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/chain-of-command.html)