Put ten people or more together, and you are probably going to get those two competing organization structures. People, unlike any complex or simple system in nature, will form two different and competing structures.
Structure in nature
Water molecular is a combination of two hydrogen atoms and one oxygen. For stability, the oxygen that has six electrons spinning around its nuclease is attracting two hydrogen atoms each has just one electron. Water is the ability of those molecular to loosely join together thanks to Hydrogen bond, an electrostatic force that attracts oxygen (and others) to hydrogen.
The above described loosely bounding between molecular is one of the universal rules. This rule is responsible for creating more and more complex and dynamic structures. If you think about groups that you are part of, you’ll find out that you are part of a loosely bounding group with other people. Based on a different level of energies, you will join a group or leave a group, the same as atoms and molecular are doing. Church, friends, sports activities, subdivisions, clubs are all excellent examples of this rule.
One of the few exceptions is work. When you are joining a company, you are subject to a different rule, a human-made rule. Most of today’s organizations are based on hierarchies. Hierarchies define the organization structure that you have to follow. There are no loosely bounding relations, there are clear and define groups, roles, and reporting line you have to follow. If you don’t follow them, you’ll need to find another way to earn your living. Organizations are using implicit fear to force people to follow their structure.
Human-made rules can’t beat natural rules. Therefore besides the man-made organization structure, there is also a natural structure. The natural structure is based on the universal laws, and it creates loosely bouns between people that attract one each other for plenty of reasons. Each group has its oxygen or its hydrogen that contribute energy to form a group and therefore seen by the group member as the group leader.
The tension between the natural and human-made organization structures
Any company, therefore, has two different unrelated organization structures: The human-made hierarchical structure, and the unofficial natural structure. Over time they even split tasks between them. The official is making decisions and then try to convince the unofficial one to make those decisions a reality. If the formal structure fails to get support, the decision will stay on a paper.
If you don’t know it already, several successful companies are helping the formal structure to find out the unofficial structure and convince the informal leaders to support the official leaders. Sound complex? Yes, it is not just complicated; it is also extremely inefficient.
One of the paradoxes of this situation is that the official hierarchies were created to increase efficiencies, but in today’s world they are creating a lot of inefficiencies due to the tension between the defined two structures.
The good news is that if you are open-minded and willing to experiment, you can decrease the gap between those two organization structures by embedding the natural structure principles into the formal structure. All it required is a willingness to take risks and think out of the box.
If you have those two competencies, you can try (for example) to elect leaders in the formal organization structure instead of nominating them. This simple change can reduce the gap between those two structures significantly as the natural leader can make a decision and get people support automatically.
Like anything else in life, the sky is the limit here. There are many changes that you can do, from small ones to dropping the formal organization structure and adopt the informal one. It really doesn’t matter what you’ll do. Any change from the inefficient two competing structure into one structure will benefit your organization short and long term.