What Is a Flat Organizational Structure? Detailed Guide

flat structure
Photo by Vlada Karpovich

The organisational structure is a crucial issue when beginning a firm. This determines the levels of communication, information distribution, management, and responsibility delegation. Learning more about various organisational structures, such as the flat structure, can help companies run more efficiently and develop an effective chain of command.

In this article, we describe a flat organisational structure, explore its benefits, who can use it, how to implement it, and look at different types of organisational structures.

What is a Flat Organisational Structure? 

A flat organisational structure is a sort of organisational design that employs a distributed decision-making process and has a decreased company hierarchy. There are extremely few tiers of management between top-level executives (commonly referred to as the C-suite) and low-level employees in a flat organisational structure. A flat organisational structure, in essence, eliminates middle management.

A flat organisational structure has the following characteristics:

  • The hierarchy has fewer levels. Because there are fewer tiers of middle management, top-level executives are closer to lower-level employees.
  • Control spans are broad. Supervisors are in charge of a large number of employees.
  • Decision-making is decentralised. Employees have greater autonomy and decision-making authority.
  • Open communication. The lines of communication between executives and staff are more open and direct.

Simply said, there are no mid-level managers impeding progress. Businesses that discard their managers in favour of a flat organisational structure can become more productive with less bureaucracy and red tape.

Who Can Use a Flat Organizational Structure?

A flattened organisational structure is most frequent in small businesses where employees can have great autonomy and direct access to management without jeopardising the company’s efficiency. When a larger company has a flat organisational structure, it’s common for it to have a set method in place that works efficiently without the intervention of middle management. A flattened organisational structure may help organisations that place a high importance on innovation and decision-making.

Benefits of a Flat Organizational Structure

Consider the following advantages of a flat organisational structure:

#1. Reduced operating expenses

Individuals below the management level may handle decision-making in a flat-structured organisation. Because a flat organisational structure does not use middle management functions, it may result in lower operational expenses due to fewer employees. This allows the organisation to reinvest those costs in areas such as expanding the firm, producing new product lines, enhancing employee training, paying bonuses and raises to employees, or purchasing additional production equipment.

#2. Increased accountability

Because there is no middle management, most employees have more responsibility than they would in a traditional organisational structure with numerous levels of management. Individuals may feel more encouraged, respected, and involved in the organisation where they work as a result of this. This additional responsibility comes with its own set of benefits, such as higher job satisfaction and a stronger willingness to collaborate with others.

#3. More efficient information transmission

Company news and other forms of information, such as procedural changes, generally move through multiple routes before reaching specific employees in a hierarchical organisational structure. In a flattened organisational structure, information is transmitted much more easily and quickly, and there is less chance of employees receiving incomplete or incorrect information.

When information communication is simple, employees may incorporate it into their tasks, benefiting the entire company.

#4. Better coordination

A flat organisational structure may facilitate more collaboration across teams co-managing a project. Employees are frequently held accountable for their own work with fewer layers of administration to overcome, allowing them to build greater collaboration skills and reach consensus on processes more rapidly. This might boost the company’s overall efficiency and productivity.

#5. Increased productivity

Employees are frequently more productive as a result of the autonomy, empowerment, and cooperation that this organisational structure provides. Project approvals can be hastened, allowing employees to start working and complete responsibilities more rapidly. Increased productivity can help a firm prosper by increasing employee motivation, which frequently leads to increased job satisfaction, readiness to take on new duties, and loyalty to the company.

#6. Talent recognition

Another advantage of a flat organisational structure is the potential to maximise each employee’s abilities and expertise because they have more responsibilities. It is simple to recognise a team member’s talents and place them in the optimal position or assign them duties to assist them in thriving in this structure.

This also includes identifying areas for team improvement and providing team members with tools and chances to gain new skills. Mentorship services can be used to help employees identify their career trajectories under a flat organisational structure.

#7. A positive work environment

Employees are more likely to build better relationships with one another if there are fewer tiers of management to work through. This, coupled with transparency and responsibility, role equity, autonomy, and enhanced communication, contributes to a good company culture. A strong corporate culture attracts top talent and qualified applicants who want to work for the organisation.

How Do You Create a Flat Organizational Structure?

It will require time and planning to eliminate your company’s intermediaries and transition to a flat organisation. Here are some pointers to get you started.

#1. Determine the requirement for a flat organisation.

Some companies thrive with flat structures, whilst others require more hierarchy to prosper. Determine the extent to which you require a flat organisational structure. You might even discover that a hybrid strategy is best, flattening down certain teams or departments while leaving others alone.

#2. Identify and define staff roles and responsibilities.

This step is critical for avoiding some of the potential setbacks outlined above. As you remove levels of management, clearly describe each remaining employee’s tasks and responsibilities to ensure everyone understands what their work includes and to whom they report. This involves outlining roles and responsibilities for future job positions so that you can appropriately staff your company in the future.

#3. Promote an environment of autonomy, collaboration, and open communication.

Encourage employees to take responsibility for their actions, to communicate freely and honestly with one another, and to collaborate whenever feasible. This contributes to a positive, transparent, and productive work atmosphere.

#4. Provide opportunities for learning and development

Employees will have fewer prospects for advancement in a flat organisation since the rungs on the corporate ladder are substantially fewer than in a tall organisation. As a result, it’s critical that you provide training and development opportunities for employees to assist them grow their talents and advance their careers in various ways. This will also contribute to them becoming more useful members of your organisation.

What are the Limitations of a Flat Organizational Structure?

Although a flat organisational structure has numerous advantages, consider the potential negatives before firing every boss.

#1. It can lead to misunderstandings about roles and responsibilities.

With fewer levels of management, there may be confusion about who is responsible for what tasks. As a result, employees may experience confusion, inefficiency, and power clashes. Reduce this disadvantage by providing detailed job descriptions for each team member so that everyone is aware of their responsibilities.

#2. It has the potential to reduce employee accountability.

When it comes to responsibilities, a flat organisation can lead to unclear lines of authority and accountability, which can lead to issues like finger-pointing and a lack of ownership for decisions and outcomes. Similar to the last option, it is vital to define clear roles and responsibilities for each person – and to hold each employee accountable for those activities.

#3. It may impede career advancement within the organisation.

With fewer levels of middle management, employees’ possibilities to advance up the corporate ladder may be constrained. This can eventually lead to increased discontent and employee attrition. McKinsey discovered that 41% of respondents quit their jobs because their organisation did not provide prospects for career progression or upward mobility. Yikes.

Establish clear growth opportunities and career paths for each employee to prevent your top talent from leaving for brighter pastures and causing turnover contagion. Keep in mind that employee development is more than just being promoted to the next career level or position. Employee growth and career advancement can be fostered through learning and development opportunities, mentorship positions, increasing autonomy and responsibility, and employee upskilling.

#4. It can make supervisors feel overburdened or burnt out.

Because there are fewer layers of management in a flat organisation, the supervisors who do exist must handle a broader range of activities and responsibilities. Overburdening any one person’s plate can lead to burnout. Make sure you have enough workers to avoid overworking your leaders.

Overall, while a flat organisational structure can be advantageous in some cases, it may not be appropriate for all businesses or industries. Before deciding whether restricting or removing managerial jobs is in their best interests, businesses must assess their specific demands and goals.

Tips for Implementing a Flattened Organizational Structure

If you want to establish a flattened organisational structure in the company, consider the following suggestions:

#1. Create training

Proper and comprehensive training is required to feel supported as an employee in a flattened organisational structure. Consider the most critical components to explain to employees, from new hires to more experienced personnel, and establish training programmes to ensure they are confident in their roles.

#2. Make materials available.

Employees must have access to the resources they require because they have the opportunity to solve problems and work autonomously without the input of several layers of management. Consider creating a central location where all employees can get the information they need on policies, procedures, and processes in order to make educated decisions.

#3. Share your expectations.

Even if employees have autonomy and the authority to make decisions without the consent of upper management, it is critical that they understand what the organisation expects of them. This can provide some guidance to the individual and make them feel more at ease completing their everyday job.

#4. Provide opportunities for people to advance within the organisation.

Employees may have less opportunities to advance in the company if you choose a flattened organisational structure. Many people value professional development, so it’s critical to provide opportunities for them inside your organization’s structure.

#5. Develop an open-door policy

Create an open-door policy if one does not already exist so that employees know they have direct access to leadership for any questions, complaints, or ideas they may have. It’s critical that employees feel comfortable addressing corporate executives, so make sure you’re explicit about their ability to do so.

#6. Determine how flat you want to go.

Determine how many levels of management you require to determine how flat your organisation structure is.

How Does a Flat Structure Affect Efficiency?

Micromanagement is reduced by the flat structure. Micromanagement also reduces efficiency. Managers’ lack of faith in their subordinates frequently slows the work process since they must approve everything before staff can continue working on a project.

What is the Difference Between Hierarchy and Flat Structure?

A hierarchical structure has numerous layers, resulting in a longer chain of command; a flat structure has a shorter chain of command. Subordinate: An employee who is lower in the line of command than a manager. Subordinates are frequently given the option to advance to higher-level management roles.

Is a Flat Structure Decentralized?

A flat, or horizontal, organisational structure is one that has decentralised leadership, few or no tiers of administration, information transparency, and people who are empowered to make decisions. Many corporate leaders like the idea of a flat organisation.

How is performance management in a flat structure?

Human resources should constantly oversee the performance review process, which is carried out by individual managers. In the case of a flat organisational structure, the CEO must act as manager for each employee review.

Does Netflix Have a Flat Structure?

Netflix has a flat organisational structure that gives staff a lot of leeway. It is sometimes referred to as a decentralised organisational structure since it allows the individual to make quick judgements. The unitary organisational structure, commonly known as the U-form organisational structure, is maintained by Netflix.


Following these steps can help a corporation develop an effective flat organisational structure that isn’t burdened down by unnecessary tiers of management. This can result in a more efficient and successful workplace, where people feel empowered to make a difference and contribute to the organization’s success and where development is not stifled by layers of red tape.


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