An organization’s culture is made up of its values, beliefs, behaviors, and attitudes. While culture can seem intangible, org charts provide a useful tool for making a company’s culture tangible and visible. Org charts visually display roles, hierarchies, and reporting structures. Examining and updating org charts can help highlight and shape an organization’s culture.

Org Charts Show Communication Flows

Org charts illustrate reporting relationships and chains of command. The org chart layout demonstrates who communicates with whom and the flow of information up, down, and across the organizational hierarchy. For example, a narrow org chart with direct reporting between positions indicates centralized decision-making and a more bureaucratic culture. In contrast, a flatter org chart with dotted lines shows cross-departmental collaboration and reflects a more flexible culture. Experiment with different organizational chart templates to find one that works best for your needs.

Org Charts Reveal Power Structures

The distribution of power and influence in a company is laid bare in an org chart. For instance, an org chart with many layers depicts a more traditional autocratic culture with power concentrated at the top. On the other hand, a flat org chart signifies shared leadership and employee empowerment within a more participative democratic culture. The number of senior management roles and the ratio of managers to individual contributors are also indications of cultural norms.

Org Charts Highlight Growth Areas

Updating org charts to include new roles, teams, or divisions helps demonstrate a growth mindset culture. For example, adding an innovation department signals a culture focused on creativity and future-readiness. Expanding the customer support team shows a culture oriented around service and relationships. Being intentional about org chart updates reinforces cultural priorities and directions.

Org Charts Reflect Diversity and Inclusion

The diversity profile of an organization can be glimpsed through its org chart. Do women and minorities hold leadership roles? Are there opportunities for advancement across demographic groups? An org chart that represents diverse employees and minimizes bias makes a statement about a culture of belonging. Promoting diversity in org charts encourages it in the larger corporate culture.

Org Charts Can Reinforce Desired Cultural Traits

Beyond reflecting culture, org charts can actively shape it. For example, a company can encourage innovation by incorporating related roles into the org chart like a Chief Innovation Officer. Or it can boost customer centricity by creating a Customer Advisory Board on the chart. Integrating new functions materializes cultural intentions.

Likewise, modifying org chart language and visuals can drive culture change. Titling groups with words like “team” versus “department” denotes collaboration. Color-coding parts of the chart can emphasize unity. Arranging the CEO name among others, not atop them, suggests egalitarianism. Subtle org chart alterations can gradually instill cultural realignment.

Thoughtfully examining and updating organization charts provides concrete ways to understand, manage, and direct a company’s culture. Org charts make the implicit explicit. As visual representations of a living system, they should evolve as the organization and its values do.

Maintaining org charts as current corporate culture scaffolds allows leaders to build upon cultural strengths while shaping strategic growth.