A Short Note on Hierarchy – and why we’re leaving it

A Short Note on Hierarchy – and why we’re leaving it

Real organization chart

You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete. 

Richard Buckminster Fuller

In my most favourite book Reinventing Organizations; which started my Journey for Teal School you find the above Buckminster Fuller quote on page 1.

So with those words we are not fighting the existing reality, but disrupting through reimagining and redesigning school as an organisation. In this short blog I would like to look at Hierarchy. A Teal school is not a hierarchical school, why?

Hierarchy in old Egypt

Some well known hierarchical systems…

Old kingdom hiearchy

There are many more…

Hierarchy is as old as our civilizations. Since the time we as human beings began organising in groups and allocating roles within a group only the type of roles have changed, not the hiearchy itself. Taylor’s Scientific Management model was built upon the same mental model; educated thinkers with power at the top and doers at the bottom layers of the pyramid.

Here is a picture showing hierarchy within a school organisation:

School hierarchy

What we're used to

This is what we are used to see in organisations today. An ordinary pyramid structure, where power is at the top, performers at the bottom. Information travels through the imaginary lines, top-bottom, bottom-top. 

What's really going on

Although exaggerated, this example (by Mark Walsh, Integration Training) is probably closer to the truth about how an organisation and its information, power (and emotional) structure really works.

While we have this messy hierarchical organisation we will never accomplish a workplace that is truly creating an opportunity for its teachers to bring their whole self to work or share their creativity to its fullest. Everyone becomes the subject of all this messiness while striving to get their job done. 

I say we change this and create schools where every individual in the organisations, is contributing and co-creating a learning center which positively supports all.

Then teachers are not left feeling like this:

Teacher crying

Self Management means creating trust in the organisation. Trusting teachers to fulfill the role of the profession they have chosen to go into. We are working in a structure designed for a time when the educated people, the information and ability to make the right decisions where only at the top of the pyramid. What sense does that make in a school in 2019? None. The traditional hierarchical relationship of superior and subordinate creates unhealthy damaging environments where people’s voices are often stifled and big decisions are left in the hands of a few. This results in inefficiency and stress. The structure itself becomes the problem, but since few understand this they treat the symptoms using more of the same, more documentation, more analysis, more control, more whatever is there to kind of glue the cracking organisation together.

Self management is far more enriching for the human self.  It builds upon knowledge about human social needs, internal motivation, creativity, emotional intelligence and dialogue instead of debate. Co-operation instead of competition. It let’s all people in the organisation use their capacity, develop and flourish. 

So, let’s leave the hierarchical system that is hurting us and let’s welcome the new paradigm.


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