The majority of workplaces have a culture and hierarchical structure. Hierarchy is defined as “an organization that ranks people, their states, their functions according to levels that are subordinate to one another, each level corresponding to a degree of power, responsibility, competence, dignity, etc.” (p.2). “Each level corresponds to a degree of power, responsibility, competence, dignity, etc.”; “a set of people who are at the top of the hierarchy, who decide, direct. ” (Larousse, 2020)
Despite this type of structure, it is possible to exercise individual leadership and initiate collaborative working methods that do not necessarily require permission from one’s superiors. These practices value the contribution of individuals and their full potential. Some authors, such as Slade (2018), classify these methods as “non-hierarchical”.
For these practices to be effective, it is essential that the role, expertise, and passions of each individual are aligned with the vision and mission of the organization.
Having worked in an academic institution for almost 10 years, I have experimented with collaborative or “non-hierarchical” working methods, without knowing it! Instinctively, our work team self-managed the process and content of its meetings, as well as the distribution of tasks required to achieve objectives. It is possible to show leadership and take the necessary initiatives to facilitate collaboration and demonstrate our added value within a hierarchical structure.
Indeed, Slade (2018) reminds us that human beings naturally operate in a non-hierarchical manner. To use his metaphor, like the birds that fly south and the bears that hibernate in winter, we are beings that instinctively self-organize our different spheres of life.
Here are some advantages of adopting collaborative working methods:
1. Colleagues hold each other accountable and responsibility is shared.
2. Each team member exercises individual leadership.
3. Everyone honours their commitments, even if the tasks are not imposed on them.
4. Actions are both participatory and reactive.
5. Collaborative methods make the organization fair, generative and just.
Adopting collaborative working methods does not happen overnight. Give yourself time to think about the changes you want to see in your organization. Then try one new practice at a time. Don’t be afraid to try and innovate, that’s how you grow!
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Slade, S. (2018). Going horizontal—creating a non-hierarchical organization, one practice at a time. Berrett-Koehler: Oakland, CA