Could your start-up thrive with a flat organisational structure?

A flat business structure isn’t for every business, but it can have hugely positive benefits for customer service – and company culture.

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It might sound radical, but have you considered adopting a flat organisational structure for your business?

A flat business structure can speed up decision making, improve employee satisfaction and help maintain company culture during rapid growth.

That said, it’s not for every business…

A company that’s recently introduced this very structure – with a great results for employee engagement and satisfaction – is start-up growth marketing firm DCMN.

After seeing its staff balloon from 20 to over 200 in just four years, DCMN was concerned about becoming increasingly rigid and hierarchical. What’s more, its company culture was at risk.

We spoke to DCMN about why they introduced a flat organisational structure, known within the company as a beta structure, and how it’s impacted the business.

What is a beta structure?

Beta removes top down management and replaces it with a structure that gives full autonomy to self-organised teams. It means that all decisions that were once made by senior managers and team leaders are now made within the team unit.

In this structure, which takes flat organisation one step further, the company is divided into multi-disciplinary teams focused on different client projects, as well as core teams like finance and tech.

As long as you have a strong company culture, and all teams are aligned on shared goals and a shared mission, everything should be on track. Trust and transparency are the order of the day.

DCMN’s Co-founder and Chief Growth Officer, Matthias Riedl, said: “At DCMN, you are no longer an employee – you are an entrepreneur. We grant our teams full control over their budgets, complete autonomy at work, freedom to manage their own time and even unlimited holidays.

“It might sound like our teams have too much freedom, but the flipside is they also take on all the responsibility of a team lead. And so far, we’ve seen them really rise to the task.”

Advantages of a flat organisational structure

You might be wondering why you’d incorporate a flat management structure into your organisation – and whether there are any disadvantages to doing so…

Here’s how such a structure can affect your business.

Improved autonomy and employee satisfaction

Why is autonomy important? If your employees have autonomy, they’re more excited to take ownership of their tasks. They’re more engaged. They’re more satisfied. And they’re encouraged to think for themselves, innovate, and drive growth.

In fact, DCMN’s quarterly team surveys have revealed high levels of satisfaction across all its international offices, ranking 4.17 stars out of 5 in the latest employee survey this month. For comparison, the average in Germany, where the company has its headquarters, is 3.45, according to Gallup. And 93% said they were likely to recommend a friend or family member to work there.

Quicker decision making

The beta structure allows for quicker decision making throughout the organisation. Without the bureaucracy of a chain of command (which slows things down), client requests and everyday operational decisions can be dealt with much more promptly. You put faith in your employees to know the answer.

Maintain company culture

Your unique company culture could be one of the first things to fall victim to rapid growth: what made sense with 10 employees can get lost as maintaining culture takes a back seat, and it can be difficult to keep everyone aligned as the company grows further.

But under this structure, culture and values can scale with the team.

DCMN developed a set of guiding principles, which define its culture and approach to work with guidelines like ‘we embrace mistakes’ and ‘we feed-back’. Individual teams can then foster this culture and align around a common sense of purpose.

Employee development

It also allows all employees to develop new skills that would usually only be capable for a team leader. It allows everyone to demonstrate and build their leadership capabilities.

DCMN has found that many people embrace the lack of hierarchies and really thrive in this environment.

DCMN UK’s Strategic Lead, Thomas Greiderer, says: “This includes leadership and strategic skills, as well as entrepreneurial skills. In the UK office, the whole team is basically in charge of running a business and recently worked collaboratively to build a business plan and overarching strategy.”

DCMN is a growth marketing partner for digital businesses and start-ups. It helps them to scale locally and internationally using a combination of creative, media planning, campaign strategies and its own technologies. To date, it has helped more than 230 brands including Secret Escapes, ASOS, eve sleep and muzmatch.

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