Organigraphs: drawing how companies really work

Harv Bus Rev. 1999 Sep-Oct;77(5):87-94, 184.


Walk into any organization and you will get a snapshot of the company in action--people and products moving every which way. But ask for a picture of the company and you will be given the org chart, with its orderly little boxes showing just the names and titles of managers. Now there's a more revealing way to depict the people and operations within an organization--an approach called the organigraph. The organigraph is not a chart. It's a map that offers an overview of the company's functions and the ways that people organize themselves at work. Perhaps most important, an organigraph can help managers see untapped competitive opportunities. Drawing on the organigraphs they created for about a dozen companies, authors Mintzberg and Van der Heyden illustrate just how valuable a tool the organigraph is. For instance, one they created for Electrocomponents, a British distributor of electrical and mechanical items, led managers to a better understanding of the company's real expertise--business-to-business relationships. As a result of that insight, the company wisely decided to expand in Asia and to increase its Internet business. As one manager says, "It allowed the company to see all sorts of new possibilities." With traditional hierarchies vanishing and newfangled--and often quite complex--organizational forms taking their place, people are struggling to understand how their companies work. What parts connect to one another? How should processes and people come together? Whose ideas have to flow where? With their flexibility and realism, organigraphs give managers a new way to answer those questions.

MeSH terms

  • Creativity
  • Industry / organization & administration*
  • Models, Organizational*
  • Organizational Innovation
  • Professional Competence
  • Systems Analysis*
  • United States