Organizational chart as a strategic communications tool

Organizational chart as a strategic communications tool

What do you picture when you imagine an organizational chart? It likely looks like an Octopus with the CEO as the head and departments branching out in tentacles underneath. But what if that isn’t right for your organization? Thinking of an org chart as a strategic communications tool – not just an operational tool – can open up new possibilities.

When I start to work with a client on their organization’s Essential Story Process, nothing is sacred in the journey of building their new path to clarity and confidence: the current work they’re doing, how they understand their business, their product or service offerings, who they think of as competitors, and, yes, their org chart. 

What is sacred is the Purpose, Mission, Vision, and Values that we develop through this process – we clarify, align, and articulate the organization’s direction. Then we can start to operationalize it – and one place I often begin operationalizing is the org chart. 

What Is an Org Chart?

Often people see org charts as an expression of who’s here and responsible for what, and who gets to tell who else what to do. I suggest looking at your org chart from a bigger picture perspective — your org chart communicates, both internally and externally, what is important to your organization and how it functions. 

If communications and marketing, for example, doesn’t show up on the org chart equally to IT, sales, HR, finance, and operations, it conveys that communications isn’t as important as those other functions. It also ensures communications will not be taken care of at a strategic level. If it’s not on the org chart, it doesn’t get done, as I like to say. 

Operationalizing the Org Chart

I see org charts as tools for organizational alignment with the Vision, Mission, and Values, developed through Phrase Strategy’s Essential Story Process. 

Org Chart Process

Depersonalizing An Org Chart

The first opportunity org chart alignment presents is envisioning how the organization could be structured if we began with the goal of fulfilling the Vision and Mission. So, we begin visually, not with names in boxes. In fact, I don’t allow clients to put names into their org charts at all – not at first.

Mission Statement and Org Chart

The mission statement clearly states how the organization is going to contribute to accomplishing the vision. Everything in the mission statement “show up” somewhere on your org chart or it will not get accomplished. Visualize the organization in terms of how it can best fulfill its mission – what critical areas must be covered? What services do those critical areas need to succeed? How would those pieces best interact together?

Aligning the org chart in this context means ensuring everything in scope is represented on the org chart, and everything out of scope is not. Additionally, every organization needs certain services that support the delivery of the mission – for example, marketing, sales, IT, finance, or human resources. Your org chart needs to show how these critical (sometimes called “shared”) services support everyone to deliver on the mission, rather than looking like individual silos.

Change can be scary but having an Essential Story is typically a galvanizing, motivating, and inspiring experience for an organization. You can use that energy as momentum to begin having conversations about creative ways to realign the organization with the clarity and confidence that the Essential Story provides.