A management hierarchy depends on the assignment of roles and levels of authority to each position in the hierarchy. For example, a vertical hierarchy positions line managers at the bottom of the structure, middle managers in the middle layer and senior managers at the top. Authority increases from the bottom to the top, with the chief executive holding the most power.
Proximity to the Line
You can evaluate a management hierarchy by the degree of separation between a manager's job and the front-line personnel, or the people who directly perform production tasks or help customers. Line managers in almost any organization interact the most with front-line workers, but they enjoy the least amount of control. Some organizations devolve a lot of authority to line managers to adjust operational decisions on the front line.
Moving to a Flatter Structure
In the two decades prior to 2011, organizations moved to flatter management hierarchies. This was a paradigm shift, but it also reduced mostly layers of middle managers. Flattening a management hierarchy means that the remaining layers of managers have more responsibility than they would have had in a vertical hierarchy. Some tasks that used to belong to managers also now belong to specialists, such as engineers, lawyers and policy experts, without supervisory duties.
In any hierarchy, managers oversee human talents and other resources in pursuit of organizational goals. While the vertical hierarchy has a long history, newer organizations have sprung up with organic models of management. An Internet media company might grow and add a new manager for each Web property it develops. A property might have its own management hierarchy without there being any standard management hierarchy across the company. This organic response ensures that an organization keeps with the needs of the market instead of adding managers according to an outdated business model.
A management hierarchy can still exist in an organization with a flatter structure, such as BMW's use of cross-functional teams. When you look at this type of organization, you will see that employees are encouraged to freely discuss their suggestions without tripping over their job titles. Ideas are power. The workplace always vibrates with collaboration as people freely debate which ideas are best for the company to meet its goals. There is also a heavy emphasis on developing the newest products and services to meet consumer needs in the near future.