Deep or Wide?

Every growing organization is faced with this question.  Its structure can only expand in one of these two dimensions.

Growing wide provides the top leader with a greater amount of direct influence in each area of the organization.  Yet it reduces the amount of focused attention given to these areas by leadership.

Growing deep allows for a greater amount of focused leadership attention to each specific area (through multiple leadership levels).  It also allows the top leader to focus more on the things they are good at and release responsibility and influence of the rest.  But it reduces the amount of direct influence the top leader has in each area.

So what is appropriate?  It depends on your context.  Let’s take a church plant for example.  During the initial stages of vision implementation it is generally better to go wider.  This way the top leader and visionary can directly influence all areas and create those areas in the way he/she envisioned as efficiently as possible.  Communication and likewise implementation is not slowed by multiple levels.  Like a virus, vision spreads quickest when the visionary is in direct contact with the most people.  But later, as the vision nears full implementation and work begins to focus more on sustaining and growing the organization, it is generally best to create depth in the structure, allowing the lead visionary to focus on his/her best areas and release other areas to those more qualified to sustain and grow them.  So here the organization’s structure morphs.

Is your organization currently deep or wide?  Is it hindered by its dimensions?  Have the efforts of your organization led it to a place where you need to morph those dimensions, creating greater width for more direct influence or depth for more focused leadership attention?

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Ryan Stigile

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