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The Horizontal Organization

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The Horizontal Organization

What the Organization of the Future Actually Looks Like and How It Delivers Value to Customers

Oxford UP,

15 min read
10 take-aways
Audio & text

What's inside?

If you are still governing your organization with a vertical hierarchy, its time to say goodbye to the structure of the Industrial Revolution, and go horizontal. The Information Age has its own way of doing things.

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Editorial Rating



  • Comprehensive
  • Analytical
  • Scientific


The horizontal organization is a more appropriate model for the knowledge age, according to author Frank Ostroff, who says companies increasingly find this structure more effective. He emphasizes the need to start with an understanding of your organization’s core competencies and to develop a horizontal structure from there. Ostroff claims this is the first model of this approach, but it is not. In fact, his fairly academic book advances a trend that is already well documented. Horizontal organizations have been covered in numerous other books, which, like this one, promote more decentralized, downsized, team-oriented organizations with empowered workers. Despite a leaden, pedantic writing style, Ostroff distinguishes his theoretical discussion with several detailed examples of how the horizontal organization works and how you can apply it to your company. getAbstract recommends this book primarily to academics, who may enjoy its theoretical nature.


The Need for a Horizontal Organization

The vertical hierarchy has been the gold standard for the organization of businesses since the Industrial Revolution, but its day is done.

Vertical hierarchies were developed to promote efficient production of goods. In the typical organization, a CEO sits at the top of the pyramid and several vice-presidents in the next layer run separate key tasks such as research and development, finance, manufacturing, marketing, and customer service. The hierarchical structure wherein employees work under top managers contributes to a variety of inefficiencies. Separate departments perform different functions. People waste time shuffling tasks to other divisions. Important information gets lost as knowledge travels up multiple levels. Jobs and performance objectives fragment as different units of the same company pursue different goals. Lower level employees gaze at this self-defeating system, and feel drained of creativity and initiative, while those at the upper levels engage in Byzantine corporate politics as employees and department heads alike work on internal goals rather than focusing on serving customers. It’s a bleak picture.


About the Author

Frank Ostroff, the key developer of the concept of the horizontal organization, is a management consultant who has worked with major companies to institute this organizational approach during the past eight years. His work has been featured in many leading business publications, including Fortune, BusinessWeek, and Financial Times.

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