One of the first things I do when starting on a new consulting project is to ask to see the client’s internal organization charts.
I’m aware of their limitations. Organizations differ greatly in how well they manage and use organization charts. Some provide a recent PowerPoint slide made by one of the senior executives. It’s usually out of date. Some have a semi automated system tied to HR software that automatically updates and draws an organization chart that is automatically posted on internal website. It’s usually out of date, too.
Organization charts can communicate how organizations view themselves structurally and hierarchically. However, given the importance of informal communications, political influence, and the increasing use of social media and collaboration tools inside the firewall, the solid and dotted lines on the charts often don’t really reflect the reality of how the organization operates.
Despite their limitations, I do think that organizations charts are potentially useful in communicating with people outside, especially if an effort is made to make them accurate and to keep them up to date. In “Better Org Charts Will Improve Government Agency Transparency and Accountability” I discuss their potential role in improving how government agencies communicate with the individuals and groups they serve. I’d be very interested in getting your reaction to this, either here or there.