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Organizational charts: Representation of corporate structures and relationships

Which methods are best suited to depicting corporate structures and relationships? We present the variants and give tips on how to create them.

Organizational charts, also known as organization charts or structure charts, serve as visual aids for depicting the internal structure of companies or organizations. They provide a clear overview of hierarchies, positions, departments and responsibilities and are the basis of a functioning and successful management structure. An organization chart can be created in a variety of ways, but in this article we will focus on those that are commonly used in most companies. 

By using simple graphical elements such as boxes, arrows and lines, the relationships and connections within the company are clearly shown. The organization chart can also contain additional information such as photos or contact details of the employees.

It serves to make important aspects such as rules, processes and the strategic orientation of the organization visible. The visual representation makes complex structures and relationships understandable and tangible. In this way, an organizational chart not only supports internal communication, but also promotes transparency and contributes to efficient collaboration within the company.

Top-down method: Starting from the top management level

The top-down approach to management refers to a hierarchical organizational structure in which managers make decisions and then delegate them downward. Managers use their knowledge to analyze and draw conclusions to develop processes that are communicated to and implemented by the rest of the team. This approach is often used in traditional industries such as retail, healthcare, or manufacturing.

This approach starts with an overarching goal at a higher management level and then determines what actions need to be taken by the various groups and individuals. Planning is basically done at the management level, and the team usually implements the decisions without much latitude.

Companies such as IBM and the New York Times rely on this approach to run the entire business. Some companies, on the other hand, prefer a hybrid approach that combines both top-down and bottom-up methods. The top-down approach is used especially for complex projects with many sub-teams and different parts of the project to ensure overall coordination and control. On the other hand, smaller teams or teams with a narrower focus tend to prefer the bottom-up approach, which allows employees to actively contribute their ideas and perspectives and thus contribute to innovation.

Bottom-up method: detailed representation of the company levels

The bottom-up approach to management involves teamwork at all levels to determine steps to achieve overall goals. It is characterized by flexibility and innovation and is used in industry-driven environments where change and collaboration are key.

Examples of the bottom-up approach include hybrid OKRs, where overarching goals are set but teams and individuals determine key outcomes. Scrum teams use daily meetings to make decisions collaboratively, and democratic management enables collaboration in decision making at all levels.

The bottom-up method allows for informed decisions, as those who work directly on projects are involved in the decision-making process. This also boosts team morale, as everyone involved has the opportunity to influence decisions, regardless of their position. This increases the motivation and commitment of all team members to the success of the project.

Comparison of methods: advantages and disadvantages

The comparison between the top-down and bottom-up method in management enables companies to evaluate different approaches to decision-making and team leadership. While the top-down approach empowers a clear hierarchy and efficient processes, the bottom-up method supports employee participation in terms of innovativeness and adaptivity. The following advantages and disadvantages result from a direct comparison:

Advantages Top-Down:

  • Clear hierarchy and responsibilities
  • Efficient decision making and implementation of projects
  • Consistent and reliable process
  • Well suited for complex projects with many sub-teams

Disadvantages Top-Down:

  • Little room for individual creativity and innovation
  • Less employee participation and motivation
  • Possible asymmetry of information between management and team members
  • Little flexibility in the event of unforeseen changes or adjustments

Advantages Bottom-Up:

  • Promotes employee participation and motivation
  • Incorporates diverse perspectives and ideas from across the team
  • Innovation friendly and allows for creative thinking
  • Flexibility to adapt and change

Disadvantages Bottom-Up:

  • Possible difficulties in coordinating and aligning the different ideas
  • Decision making can be more time consuming
  • Can lead to conflict if disagreements cannot be resolved
  • Not always suitable for complex projects with many sub-teams

Other methods and variants

Although the top-down and bottom-up methods are the most popular, there are several other ways to efficiently manage and promote teams. In particular, when dynamic market conditions prevail or companies with many different products, branches and clients work together, one of the following management methods is a good choice:


The matrix structure represents an alternative team structure that differs from the traditional hierarchical model. It uses a grid format in which team members report to both primary and secondary supervisors. This creates multiple reporting lines and a multi-layered hierarchy. The main advantage of the matrix structure is to create a balanced organizational structure by having employees report to different managers in different areas. This structure is well suited for teams that seek balance between departments and products, want to improve collaboration and communication, and need more flexible leadership roles. The matrix structure allows team members to make decisions independently and ensure that decision-making authority is not limited to a small group of people.


The process-based structure shifts the focus from departments to internal processes. It is a hierarchical organizational structure in which the management level is linked to various processes. This type of team structure is preferred by companies where processes take precedence over individual projects, be it the introduction of new processes or the optimization of existing ones. The process-based structure is particularly suited to teams seeking efficiency, business growth, and support across multiple processes. Unlike projects with an external focus, teams using this structure place a stronger emphasis on internal processes and efficiency.

Flat hierarchy

A flat structure in companies differs from the traditional top-down hierarchy by creating a network of several flat levels. In this model, there are executives, middle managers:and teams, with only a few levels of hierarchy between them. This is in contrast to the traditional structure, where many levels of hierarchy can exist between managers and lower level team members. The flat structure is particularly well suited to creating centralized or collaborative networks focused on common goals. The level of communication and manager involvement will depend on the size of the teams and the level of manager:s involvement. The main goal of this structure is to create a balance between leadership and cross-functional teams.

Product orientation

A functional structure refers to an organizational structure in which each function is grouped into its own division. This enables the creation of specialized areas, including a product-oriented structure in which each business area is divided into individual product lines. In this approach, selected teams are responsible for each product line. This is particularly useful for production-oriented companies that want to create clear lines of responsibility across departments. The functional structure is well suited for teams that aim for semi-autonomous areas and continuous product improvements.

Dealing with multiple locations and clients

Companies with a manageable number of branches can usually use the classic organizational charts already discussed as a guide. However, if models such as a branch system prevail, the following organizational structures are suitable:

Central organization chart

In this approach, a central organization chart is created that shows the overall structure of the company. It contains the various departments, hierarchy levels and responsibilities. The locations are shown in this organization chart as separate units that are assigned to the higher-level departments.

Location-based organizational charts

In this method, separate organizational charts are created for each site. Each org chart shows the site's specific departments and hierarchy levels, as well as the responsibilities and reporting lines within that site. These organizational charts can then be combined to create an overall view of the corporate structure.

Hybrid approach

A hybrid approach combines elements from both of the above approaches. A central organizational chart is created to show the overall corporate structure, and separate organizational charts are created for each site to show the specific structures and relationships on site. This approach makes it possible to visualize both the overall corporate structure and the individual site structures.

When companies have multiple clients and want to create org charts, they need to map their organizational structure to account for the different clients. Here are some steps that can help companies do this:

  • Identify clients: First, determine which clients should be included in the org chart. All clients should be considered as separate entities, with their own departments, teams and roles.
  • Determine the organizational structure per client: define the organizational structure for each client separately. Consider which hierarchy levels, departments, teams and roles should exist within each client. Consider the specific requirements and business areas of each client.
  • Define hierarchy levels: Define the hierarchy levels within each client. Identify the different levels of executives, managers, team leaders, and employees. Consider how authority, responsibilities, and decision-making paths function within each client.


Tips for creating a meaningful organizational chart

  • Identify the structure: Determine the main functions, departments and team structures in your company. Analyze how these areas are connected and what levels of hierarchy exist.
  • Data collection: Gather relevant information about employees, their positions, responsibilities and reporting lines. Talk to team leaders and managers to get an accurate picture of the organizational structure. Also review existing documentation such as job descriptions and organizational policies.
  • Design the organizational chart structure: decide what format and display method is best for your organizational chart. There are several options such as hierarchical, flat, or matrix. Choose the structure that best reflects the relationships between departments and team members in your organization.
  • Realization of the organization chart: Use specialized organizational chart software or tools to create the organizational chart. Start with the top management levels and work your way down. For each position, include the name, position titles, and connections to other departments or teams.
  • Review and update: Make sure the organizational chart is accurate and up-to-date. It is particularly relevant to review the organizational chart regularly so that it always adequately reflects new employees, changes in positions, or organizational restructuring. It should be updated accordingly and made available to all employees.

Balance is the key to success

Successful management, especially in large and complex structures, is a challenge for every company. It is difficult to find perfect solutions 

as each approach has its advantages and disadvantages. The choice between top-down and bottom-up methods depends on various factors, such as the type of company, industry, goals and corporate culture.

However, a balanced approach that combines elements of both methods can result in effective leadership and successful management. By skillfully combining the hierarchy and efficiency of the top-down approach with the participation, creativity, and flexibility of the bottom-up approach, leaders can create a work environment that is both structured and innovative.

Ultimately, the key to success lies in recognizing the individual strengths and advantages of both approaches and combining them in a balanced and flexible way. In this way, companies can optimize their structures, increase employee engagement and motivation, and ultimately achieve better results.


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