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Why We Threw Our Hierarchical Org Chart Down the Waterfall

How many layers of management and bureaucracy are there between the decision-maker and the people doing the work at your organization?

Maybe a few? Maybe a lot?

Ever get sick of getting feedback — on someone else’s feedback — that someone else will have to provide feedback on before something is ever approved or finished?

In an intentionally slow but ever-improving process that’s taken place over the course of the last couple of years, we threw out our hierarchical and traditional org chart for a flatter structure in an effort to become an Agile agency, and the results have been measurable, to say the least.


The shift was due largely in part to getting sick of feeling constrained by the myth of the iron triangle when it came to feeling forced to pick two among fast work, good work, and cheap work, but not having a solution in place to effectively break the mold and deliver all three. You can read more about that in this post by The Starr Conspiracy’s CEO and founder, Bret Starr.

So maybe you’ve heard of Agile — maybe you haven’t. What is it?

In short — it’s a methodology traditionally used in software development, but at its core it:

  • Is a way of operating that embraces responsiveness to change instead of following an over-engineered project plan

  • Prioritizes collaboration and co-creation within internal teams and with the client

  • Enables clear communication of the definition of done — all of the contextual elements of business objectives to success factors and a road map to the final output from the very beginning

  • Embraces a culture where those who are doing the work can achieve a state of “flow” to produce better work, faster (which can often mean cheaper)

Agile is different depending on what you offer, be it services, technology, etc., so feel free to call bullshit if anyone ever tells you they’re the “expert” and that you’re doing it wrong.

There is no wrong, only better.

The takeaway here is that Agile is not just for programming or developers anymore, and maybe your organization could benefit from adopting some of the principles of Agile processes. I can attest that the organizations that have adopted this philosophy within their organizations have seen the benefits, and there’s definitely some added mojo when we get our Agile on together.

There are many different flavors of Agile, but what we’ve adopted is an amalgamation of Agile, lean, the original Delphi, the Kanban method, and other methods, thanks to our friends over at Agency Agile, who did a kick-ass job helping us get on the right path.

We’ve seen fewer rounds to approved and completed projects and less time spent on projects, which in turn means efficiency and more work completed within a given period of time, and a lot more excitement and co-creation by involving clients at the beginning of a project instead of relying on the Mad Men way of doing things — working behind closed doors until the “big reveal” of a concept or piece of work.

Arguably, one of the most important outcomes that this shift has done for us and our clients is only focusing on the work that will deliver value to the client.

We don’t want to work on stuff you don’t care about. Period.

You’ll no longer pay for all of the processes and inefficiencies built into finishing a project that you ultimately don’t find any value in. Although this is a more traditional concept derived from lean principles when talking about waste and the value stream, the point here is that lean and Agile have worked together quite nicely for us.

If you’d like to learn more about what an Agile road-mapping session could look like for your next project or business initiative, give us a holler — we’d love to talk.