Over 20 years ago, author Sally Helgesen shared her theory of organizational structure in her book The Web of Inclusion and it still has relevance today. She contrasted the traditional hierarchical model with a web organizational model, maintaining that the later provided more strength and engagement for all involved.
Picture the traditional model – all in boxes – vs. a web model where there is complexity and interconnectedness. The traditional model has only one “Big Cheese” whereas in the web everyone has influence and can lead from the middle. Straight line communication is contrasted with collaboration and interdependence. In the hierarchy, the top leader is the focus whereas in the web model the organization revolves around its purpose.
Ideally, the entire organization would be structured around a web model, but if your leaders aren’t that enlightened yet, think about what you could do to create such a framework in your area of influence. How can you become an “organizational spider” and weaver those connections within your community? What mission or purpose remains in the center of your “web”? Who are other “spiders” who have the potential to help you build webs? (Never underestimate anyone!)
You also need to be on guard for “arachnophobia” and pay attention to people who want to kill the change-making spiders or who simply resist change. Not everyone will embrace the web-making so it’s important to have the persistence of the Itsy Bitsy Spider who kept climbing that water spout over and over.
In the end, empowering others to be part of a web lends strength and purpose to everyone. It’s worth the effort to weave – one strand at a time.
Fond memories Tracy!