I’m working with two clients through an acquisition of another organization. With the acquisition of talent and organizations, it can prove challenging when there are multiple leadership layers and no clear understanding of the value of each managerial layer, poorly understood boundaries of goal-setting and no agreement on how the organization promotes and supports people.

Have you found that many times executive leadership throws a hierarchy or self-managed team together with little knowledge or thought of:

  1. Who, does what, when, where?
  2. How will we do the work?
  3. What work are we doing?
  4. Who will do the work?
  5. Why are we doing this?
  6. What alternative ways exist?
  7. Can we identify what is working to amplify?
  8. Can we identify what is not working to dampen?
  9. How many leadership layers are too many or not enough?

When the above questions are poorly understood, the organization will constrict and fail to achieve the success projected.

Below is a framework that I use for organization design and leadership. The frame comes from the work of Elliott Jaques Requisite Organization.

leadership layers and the value you bring as a manager

Each managerial leadership layer (Jaques calls them stratum) is useful to support the work getting done and to ensure minimal macro and micromanagement. Additionally, each stratum has a discretionary time span – meaning the most extended time of a goal to be completed within that stratum. With stratum IV, the time span is 2 – 5 years, saying that the longest goals this role has to achieve will be within 2 to 5 years; they will have shorter goals, but none that are longer than 5 years.

Each managerial leadership layer or stratum identifies the type of work expected, at that leadership stratum, how the work is completed (what success looks like), and the value that leadership stratum brings to the organization.

Stratum V: 5yr-10yr – CEO or Executive Director
  • Construct a compelling vision(?)
  • Vision must be relevant to the marketplace
  • Value to org = viability in the marketplace
Stratum IV: 2yr-5yr – VP or CEO of a small company
  • Integration
  • Integrate systems into a whole
  • Value to org = connection as a whole, interface & strategy
Stratum III: 1yr-2yr – Director
  • Systems
  • Construct systems to support processes
  • Value to org = predictability & consistency
Stratum II: 3mon-1yr – Manager
  • Process
  • Ensures work gets done
  • Value to org = accuracy, completeness, timeliness
Stratum I: 1day-3mos – Front Line
  • Procedures
  • Pace & Quality
  • Value to org = quality

I hope you see that no stratum is more important than another, and they need each other to support the organization’s flourishing into capacity.

What happens when the leadership layers or stratum is weak, underdefined, or absent?

When the stratum of the organization is weak, this is a crack or constraint, and when you are the person doing the work, you have to dip into the stratum below and do that work. So, if you are a stratum III director developing systems to understand financial forecasting and data to support ongoing growth and acquisition, plus the stratum II layer manager does not exist or is not doing their work – then you have to do the development of process work to ensure that the front-line work is getting done on-time, on-budget … That means your systems development is constricted, and the organization is not gaining the predictability it needs!

Using the organization design framework above will help you think through the following:

  • your current management and leadership layers
  • how to identify the value and type of work expected at those leadership levels
  • what to look for when acquiring talent, and how to best place new people into your organization and teams
  • areas to identify micro and macro-management
  • what may be causing the bad behaviors and team breakdowns

Organization design is the skeleton of your organization. A good design supports a healthy flow of work, cash, people, and customers while a bad design constricts these.