What’s it: A horizontal organizational structure is an organizational structure with few hierarchical layers and a wide span of control. It emphasizes an employee-centered approach by promoting teamwork and collaboration. Sometimes, we also call it a flat structure.
Under a horizontal structure, the company has a short chain of command. In contrast, each management position will have a wide span of control with many subordinates. And such characteristics are important to improve coordination and decision-making processes. Moreover, it allows employees to focus and invest time and energy in company goals because they have more autonomy and delegation.
Where is the horizontal structure widely adopted?
Small businesses or start-ups often adopt this structure. This is because they have a relatively simple operation. In addition, they also have fewer employees, so there is less need for a managerial layer to supervise employees.
In some cases, the owner hires a supervisor to directly supervise the employee. They have multiple tasks in different areas and easily report directly to the business owner.
But, as the company grows, the organization gets bigger. As a result, company operations are becoming more complex with many employees.
And, the horizontal structure is often not a good option. It is considered less than optimal because it often causes ambiguity within the organization. For example, the company does not break down specific tasks, roles, and responsibilities. So some people may have multiple roles. And it can cause problems in large organizations.
On the other hand, large companies will adopt a vertical structure. They divide operations and tasks into more specifics, which leads to specialization. They also recruited more middle management to supervise employees. As a result, the organization within the company is more organized.
What are the characteristics of a horizontal organizational structure?
Unlike vertical structures, horizontal structures have fewer layers, usually two or three layers. For example, organizations only involve owners and supervisors, as we often see in small businesses. In other cases, managerial positions may involve directors, division heads, and managers.
And in general, the following factors characterize a horizontal organizational structure:
Chain of command. The horizontal structure involves a short chain of command. Organizations may involve two or three chains of command. It may involve top management and lower management, eliminating mid-level management positions.
The span of control. Organizations have a wide span of control. Each managerial position controls a broad area or group. Long story short, they supervised many subordinates.
Autonomy. Managers give subordinates the flexibility to organize and control their areas. As a result, they have the freedom and independence to carry out their roles and responsibilities.
Delegation. Top managers empower employees to contribute to decision-making. Thus, lower managers have the authority to make business decisions with little or no involvement from above.
Teamwork and collaboration. This structure can motivate employees by encouraging them to collaborate and work together constructively by reducing supervision. And collaborative work teams have become a method for supervising employees.
Bureaucracy. The horizontal structure is less bureaucratic, where the organization has few managerial layers and places less emphasis on rigid adherence to rules and procedures.
What is delayering?
Some companies with a vertical structure may choose to reorganize and remove one or more hierarchical levels from the organizational structure. We call it delaying.
Delayering aims to increase efficiency, eliminate red tape and lower costs. After delayering, the vertical structure becomes more horizontal. As a result, the organizational structure has fewer managerial layers.
Usually, the target is middle management. So, after removing it, the company no longer spends money on paying middle managers. In addition, communication and decisions can flow more quickly without involving them as intermediaries. And management can make and implement decisions and policies more quickly. Finally, It makes organizations more responsive and flexible in adapting to a dynamic business environment.
What are the advantages of a horizontal organizational structure?
The horizontal structure allows the company to save money. They do not need to hire middle management, which is often expensive. Thus, they can reduce operating costs. Other advantages of a horizontal organizational structure are:
Utilize resources optimally. The company emphasizes a cross-functional structure. For example, employees can perform different roles according to business needs. Finally, it allows the company to make optimal use of resources.
Better communication. Fewer layers lead to better communication. In addition to reaching the intended person faster, information is less likely to be distorted. In contrast, more layers make the information more likely to be distorted as it passes through the layers, making the message ineffective.
Faster decisions. Management is faster in making decisions and implementing them because they go through fewer managerial layers. In addition, it makes the company responsive to changes in the business environment.
Empower employees. Management gives employees more autonomy and encourages them to work independently and take on more responsibilities. As a result, they are pleased to have more control over their work.
High job satisfaction. Employees may be more passionate about having control over their work. It leads to high job satisfaction and motivation.
Innovation. Autonomy allows employees to develop and realize their creativity in their work. And they can maximize their best ability. It all leads to more innovation within the company.
What are the disadvantages of a horizontal organizational structure?
Horizontal structures are less effective for large organizations. Complex operations with many employees require structured arrangements. Companies must divide roles and responsibilities specifically and distribute them to several managerial layers. Otherwise, irregularities within the company can throw operations into chaos. And they cannot grow bigger because of an unstructured organization.
Other disadvantages of a horizontal organizational structure are:
Fewer promotion opportunities. Companies have fewer managerial positions to fill. As a result, employees feel unable to pursue a higher career. Finally, they choose to pursue a career in another company.
Higher workload. Managers have to supervise more subordinates, and therefore their workload is heavier. On the other hand, giving employees more delegation increases their tasks and work. As a result, it causes employees stress and managers to be overwhelmed.
Confusion. The company does not define specific roles and responsibilities. Such generalizations pose risks. For example, employees are confused because it is unclear who to report to.
Power struggle. Power struggles can arise because roles and responsibilities are not specifically defined. Some want to have a strong influence over others by dominating. In addition, the horizontal structure can also create conflict between departments because their responsibilities are interdependent and are at the same level.
Lack of specialization. The company does not specifically describe certain job functions. Some employees may hold concurrent roles or get multiple assignments for different areas. In addition to the workload getting heavier, it can reduce their productivity.
What to read next
- Organizational Structure: Why It Matters and What are the types
- Tall Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Flat Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure By Hierarchy: Advantages, Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure by Function: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure By Product: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure by Region: Advantages and Disadvantages
- Organizational Structure by Customers: How It Works, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Matrix Structure: How It Works, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Horizontal Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Vertical Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Shamrock Organization: How it Works, Advantages and Disadvantages
- Project-Based Organizational Structure: Strengths and Weaknesses
- Centralized Organizational Structure: Advantages, Disadvantages
- Decentralized Organizational Structure: Advantages, Disadvantages
- Formal Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Informal Organizational Structure: Characteristics, Advantages, Disadvantages
- Multidivisional Structure: Importance, How it Works, Pros, Cons