Perhaps you looked at an org chart on your first day of work, or perhaps it happened a year later when you needed to get in touch with Stan from another department. At some point, you have likely seen an organizational chart for your company. And we can probably guess what it looked like.
The typical org chart looks like a pyramid, your C-level executives at the top with lines stretching down to middle management and finally staff-level employees. But not every org chart has to look this way. Many types of organizational charts exist—the way you structure your document depends on what you want it to accomplish.
Let’s go through the three common types of organizational charts and reasons why you might consider each of them. If you're looking to build an org chart from scratch or from a CSV file, jump down to our simple org chart tutorial.
What is an org chart?
In case you need a refresher, an organizational chart—or an org chart for short—shows the structure of an organization, including the relationships and ranks that make up that organization. Org charts can:
- Give employees a quick overview of the entire company and show where their work fits in
- Keep track of reporting relationships
- Show relationships between departments
- Improve communication
- Assist management as they scale the company and manage growth
1. Hierarchical org chart
The pyramid-shaped organizational chart we referred to earlier is known as a hierarchical org chart. Each employee should have one supervisor. Most organizations group departments by function—e.g. marketing, HR, sales, etc.—but you could also group by product for larger companies or physical location for international companies.
|Better defines levels of authority and responsibility||Can slow down innovation or important changes due to increased bureaucracy|
|Shows who each person reports to or who to talk to about specific projects||Can cause employees to act in interest of the department instead of the company as a whole|
|Motivates employees with clear career paths and chances for promotion||Can make employees toward the bottom of the chart feel undervalued|
|Gives each employee a specialty|
|Creates camaraderie between employees within the same department|
2. Horizontal or flat org chart
A horizontal or flat organizational chart fits companies with few levels between upper management and staff-level employees. Many start-up businesses use a horizontal org chart before they grow large enough to build out different departments, but some organizations maintain this structure since it encourages less supervision and more involvement from all employees.
|Gives employees more responsibility||Can create confusion since employees do not have a clear supervisor to report to|
|Fosters more open communication||Can produce employees with more generalized skills and knowledge|
|Improves coordination and speed of implementing new ideas||Can be difficult to maintain once the company grows beyond start-up status|
3. Matrix org chart
No, this org chart has nothing to do with Neo. The name describes its structure. A matrix organizational chart looks like a grid, and it shows teams that form for special projects. For example, an engineer may regularly belong to the engineering department (led by an engineering director) but work on a temporary project (led by a project manager). The matrix org chart accounts for both of these roles and reporting relationships.
|Allows supervisors to easily choose individuals by the needs of a project||Presents a conflict between department managers and project managers|
|Gives a more dynamic view of the organization||Can change more frequently than other organizational chart types|
|Encourages employees to use their skills in various capacities aside from their original roles|
Org charts made easy
You might want an org chart that you can easily edit as your organization changes or one that you can customize with personal notes. We have good news: It's easy and free to create one with Lucidchart. Start with a free org chart template, or automatically create an org chart from a CSV file with this quick tutorial.
Tips for any org chart
No matter which of the different types of organizational charts you choose, keep the following principles in mind. (Don’t worry—Lucidchart can help you follow them all.)
Stay organized. An unorganized organizational chart won’t be much help to anyone. For absolute clarity, make your boxes the same size and place them an equal space apart. Keep the chart on one page, if you can, or divide it into different sheets by department. Create your document easily in Lucidchart with auto-formatting and premade org chart templates. (You can even import data from a spreadsheet or CSV file.)
Keep it up to date. Many companies grow quickly or promote employees frequently. Make it part of your company’s onboarding ritual to update the org chart when someone starts a new position—then they’ll know where they fit in right away. Because our diagramming tool lives on the web, you can invite several employees to help out and edit in real time. Just click “Share.”
Create a central location for your organizational chart and share from that location. If you email your employees the org chart as an attachment, the file may quickly go out of date, and you’ll suddenly have inaccurate versions floating around everywhere. Lucidchart can act as your central location. Once you create your document, share a view-only copy with others or publish a live link—when people move in or out or about the company, your published document will reflect the changes you make.
Provide or link to other relevant information in your document. Names and titles aren’t the only details that matter. Add photos, contact information, or other data directly on the chart, or link to that information in Lucidchart so employees can more easily contact each other and collaborate.
Try Lucidchart as you build out one of these organizational chart types, and get your company in sync.
What advantages have you seen from using hierarchical, matrix, or flat organizational charts?