What is an Organizational Chart
Do you think an organizational chart is just a big piece of paper showing how low some people are on the totem pole? An org chart is actually far more than just a hierarchical representation of a company’s workforce. It’s a visual representation of a company’s reporting structure and an acknowledgement of who works at the company.
Tips for Creating an Organizational Chart
An org chart is not a highly technical business document, so creating it isn’t a task that requires an engineering degree. However, in order for your org chart to be sensible to others, keep the following tips in mind:
- Work from the top down; org charts are hierarchical in nature, so it should look more like a pyramid than the fifth generation on a family tree
- Org charts are often multiple pages; with that in mind, keep each page to three or four levels max
- Everyone should appear on an org chart by name, but managers and above should also have their titles listed
- Org charts are best divided by manager/department for clarity
- Avoid fancy colors and shapes
How to Create a Good Organizational Chart
The first step to creating a good org chart is to pick the software program to create it in. There are some specialized programs like SmartDraw and Lucidchart that focus on flow diagrams (org charts are a type of flow diagram), and Visio has specific shapes for org charts, but applications like PowerPoint and even free software like LibreOffice Draw are sufficient. Most org charts are simply boxes with names and lines connecting boxes, so there really isn’t a need for fancy, expensive software to create one.
Starting with the top person at the company, usually the president or CEO, draw a box at the top middle of your page. Enter the president/CEO’s name and title in that box. Below that box, create a box for every person who directly reports to the CEO. This should list the person and their title, as these are likely directors or vice presidents. The one exception to this would be the administrative or executive assistant who is not a department but works directly for the CEO. This person can be placed below the CEO’s org chart box but is more often placed off to the side to indicate reporting structure but not a parallel rank to the directors or vice presidents.
Worth mentioning here is that each of these people should be connected to the CEO with a solid line. This is important because it indicates a direct line of reporting and structure. A dashed line would indicate an indirect reporting structure. For example, perhaps the executive assistant works for the CEO but actually reports to, say, the Human Resources director. The executive assistant would then have a dashed line to the CEO and a solid line when shown again underneath director of HR.
The third level of the opening page of the org chart would then list the direct reports of each person under the CEO. If each person has more than two direct reports, this can start to look like a pyramid with a very wide base, so it’s acceptable here if the direct reports to the vice presidents are listed vertically instead of horizontally. If you do use this method, the direct reports here would be all set off just a bit from a single line, indicating a direct report to the VP above them but equality among each.
After the initial page of the org chart, the following pages are generally divided up into departments. For this example, if we assume the first VP under the CEO is in charge of manufacturing and quality assurance, the next page of the org chart might be title Manufacturing. The first box on this page would then be the director of manufacturing. Underneath this person would be perhaps one to three managers, and each manager would have their direct reports.
Again, each manager may have multiple direct reports. To prevent the bottom layer from spreading out, you may need to have a single vertical line underneath the manager and then have employees “branch” off that line to the left and right. This will allow you to list numerous department employees in a small space.
Each page of the org chart from here on out will follow this same pattern with the name of the department at the top of the page, the manager or director, and the direct (and indirect) reports. The org chart is complete only once all the personnel in the company are represented.
A Few Final Considerations
An organizational chart carries a lot of significance in companies and has meaning far beyond indicating who reports to whom. So here are a few extra things to consider when creating one:
- Be consistent. Most org charts only list titles for managers and above. However, if you do list another person’s title, you should do it for everyone. Otherwise, you risk offending someone for not having their title listed or show favoritism to someone whose title did get listed.
- Update it quickly. Companies are living entities with employees coming and going constantly, as well as personnel changing titles. Your org chart also needs to be a living document. New hires like to see their names on an org chart to feel a part of the company. People being promoted or moving around in the company like to see that their contributions are recognized. While there is no hard and fast rule for when an org chart should be updated, monthly updates are a good baseline.
- Be accurate, especially with names. No employee likes to look at an org chart and see their name misspelled. To some it can be an unforgivable mistake that generates resentment. The same goes for someone’s title. Again, to some people, having a “senior” left out of their title or being listed as a “Machinist II” instead of “Machinist III” is not an issue, but for others it’s a sign of disrespect or simple dismissal. So try to be accurate.
- Treat it as an important document. The org chart represents company hierarchy as well as reporting structure. Who are people responsible to? Who do you go to when you need something out of a specific department? Who are the decision makers and upper management in the company? All employees, but especially new ones, like to know this information. An org chart is a simple way to give it to them.
Organizational charts, on the surface, are simple, easy-to-create documents. Their impact, however, can be anything but simple, so their importance is hard to overstate. When done right, an org chart isn’t just a document showing where someone fits in a company, it’s a document that shows someone that they belong.