In business, denouncing hierarchies and supporting flat structures is fashionable, But teams need solid frameworks and clear role delineation.
Most early-stage businesses subscribe to the new age principles of flat teams, no ‘titles,’ and the use of intuition and self-direction. This might work for a scrappy startup when there are two or three skilled, self-driven, autonomous people. But it doesn’t scale.
As a business scales, it needs clear structure.
With structure, there is freedom. With no structure, there is chaos.
Most small businesses lean toward autonomy and self-direction, but it’s usually because they haven’t yet invested the resources to build better alternatives.
Structure is not inherent.
The most crucial structure I see is the need for delineation between the ‘maker,’ ‘manager,’ and ‘architect’ functions. These are three very distinct roles that most often require different people to do them.
When new clients start offshoring, it is not uncommon to expect their staff to do a little bit of everything: “an administrator that can handle some digital marketing, accounting, and sales.” This does not happen in real life. Even less so in the Philippines.
My quick-fire framework
- People work best in hierarchies (typically).
- Employees are not entrepreneurs – and don’t want to be (typically)
- Every team/department needs ‘makers, managers, and architects,’ and they are not the same person.
Entrepreneurs thrive on creativity, chaos, innovation, flying by the seat of their pants, and juggling multiple functions and skills (through necessity). Employees typically respond well to stable environments with clear, stable objectives and specialize in narrower functions.
Employees are not entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurs want their employees to be entrepreneurs, but that’s just a cop-out. It’s easier for everything if it could be the case. But it rarely happens.
To build an effective team/business, you must ‘get the right players onto the field.’ And a team needs three critical roles: maker, manager, and architect.
The architect is the big thinker and visionary. They have to think of everything, for every outcome, in advance. They have to think both broad and narrow. They must understand the issue at hand, including surrounding context, implications, costs, and second, third, and fourth-order consequences.
The manager is the implementer. They are more stable, detailed, and methodical. They need a good technical understanding, as well as an understanding of broader context and relevance. The manager supports the maker to get things done. They are not a boss but an enabler and facilitator.
The maker is the primary producer. They get on and do the work and should not need to understand everything about everything in order to get it done. If the architect and manager are doing a good job, then the makers’ role should be relatively obvious, intuitive, and frictionless.
There is a necessary crossover between roles, and each role should be agile, understanding the other functions. None exist in isolation. They must all act in symphony.
Architects should be very broad in their design capabilities; managers are less broad, but much deeper in implementation, and makers are very narrow in their functions.
If you expect one person to design, implement and build, you will likely be disappointment. If you have the right people on the team, then you will get good results.