Every organization strives to achieve a culture of innovation, engagement and high performance. However, most organizations fail to take the important next steps to achieve the performance goals that they’ve put down on paper, and end up operating in a  way that supports mediocre performance and results. We call this type of organization, a horizontal level organization. When you operate as a horizontal organization, it’s very difficult to achieve your performance goals. Here are nine reasons why horizontal organizations are ineffective:

1. Unclear goals.

In horizontal organizations, goals tend to be confusing and unclear at both a general strategic and senior management level, as well as down through all levels of the organization. The organization may have too many goals due to a lack of focus and discipline and employees and teams often work in silos. In an organization operating at a horizontal level, goals are often internally focused and not designed to add value to customers. As a result, employees tend to focus on “busy work” which does not necessarily move the organization forward, and customers may feel like they come last.

2. Reactive versus proactive.

Many organizations operating at a horizontal level tend to be more reactive than proactive. Most resources are focused on dealing with internal distractions, putting out fires and problem solving. This leaves little time and energy for actually moving the company forward in a meaningful way.

3. Lack of communication.

Employees and leaders in a horizontal organization usually know that there is something seriously wrong with the business but are either afraid to speak up or feel that, even if they do, no one will listen or care. Challenging the status quo is discouraged so there is no reward for speaking up, even if it is for the betterment of the organization. As a result, even though many employees recognize problems or issues, nothing is ever done about them and dysfunctional systems and processes continue.

4. Change is confused with innovation.

In organizations operating at a horizontal level, leaders often recognize that innovation is the key to high performance and success, but they confuse this innovation with change. As a result, a lot of time and energy is spent doing “stuff”, but this activity rarely results in moving the company forward. There is a poor return on investment for the amount of time, energy and resources spent.

5. A lack of clarity around roles, accountability and commitment.

Because roles are poorly defined or there is role conflict or role ambiguity, the structure in a horizontal organization tends to be confusing and employees are unclear as to what their responsibilities are, and how their actions contribute toward the success of the company. As a result, team members do not hold one another accountable for delivering results or living the company’s values. Instead of focusing on results and continuous improvement, people make excuses for underperformance and incomplete assignments.

6. Lack of processes.

In horizontal organizations, there are poor or inadequate processes in place to achieve efficiency in many aspects of the business. This is true from business planning, communication, internal cooperation, problem solving and decision making through to employee development, succession planning, conflict management and change management. Overall, these companies lack the structure, design, processes, tools, policies and practices to achieve efficiency and excellence and, as a result, performance goals and deadlines are missed.

7. Poor employee development.

In horizontal organizations, time is not spent developing the right employees. Instead of rewarding high performers and making sure they are happy and engaged, and moving average performers up to a high-performance level, managers spend most of their time on low performers, thus inadvertently rewarding mediocre performance. As a result, high performers tend to move on to better opportunities and the company is left with more and more poor performers.

8. Lack of trust.

In horizontal organizations, there’s a general lack of trust. There may appear to be a sense of harmony but this is often artificial. People tend to work in silos and guard their own turf. As a result, they are closed off and not open to hearing new ideas or suggestions that could improve the business.

9. Treating symptoms instead of solving problems.

n a Horizontal Organization, managers tend to think in a linear, tactical fashion and look for obvious and immediate solutions to problems. Because of this, when challenges arise, they often search for remedy in activities like team building and skills training or even restructuring. However, these activities don’t address or solve the core problem; they only treat the symptoms. So even after the skills training or reorganization is complete, they find the same problems cropping up again.

Build a vertical organization

Is your organization, like so many others, stuck operating at a horizontal level and having trouble meeting the performance goals that you’ve put down on paper? Find out what you can do to move your organization from an expectation of mediocrity to an expectation of excellence in the eBook, Vertical Organization.

Contact us to learn more.