When we think of organizational charts, what often comes to mind is the top-down, pyramid-like organizational chart of large companies.
Of course, that’s just one of many types of organizational charts that exist today across organizations big and small. Even when organizations share business models, industries, and size – their organizational charts can greatly differ.
That’s because a structure that works for one organization may not work for another. What’s more, organizational charts are used to make a statement, through design, on the organization’s beliefs, values, culture, and philosophies.
So which organizational chart design best represents your brand and organization?
That’s what we’ll figure out today. I’m going to break down what organizational charts are all about, share plenty of neat examples (and awesome templates) along the way, and show you how to design your own.
- What is an organizational chart?
- Do small businesses need organizational charts?
- What are the different types of organizational charts?
- Vertical organizational chart examples and templates
- Horizontal organizational chart examples and templates
- Matrix organizational chart examples and templates
- Creative organizational chart examples and templates
- How to create an organizational chart in Venngage
What is an organizational chart?
An organizational chart is a visual chart that represents the structure of a company. It highlights how teams and departments are organized, the reporting relationships across the organization, and every individual’s role and responsibilities.
An up-to-date organizational chart serves several important functions for your organization. This infographic highlights 5 key benefits.
- An organizational chart helps potential investors/shareholders understand who is steering the ship. At a glance, they can see who makes up the leadership team and the talent, skill and experience powering your organization. It’s one way to reassure stakeholders that the business is in good hands.
- An organizational chart helps the entire organization understand the chain of command. From process flows, approval flows, and other types of decisions, an organizational chart helps everyone understand the processes (really, the logic) behind them. A clear organizational chart belongs to every employee onboarding process.
- An organizational chart helps new hires get to know fellow employees. They learn who owns which areas, who the senior staff members are, and the types of departments that exist within the organization. More importantly, they understand how their own role fits into the current organizational structure.
- An organizational chart helps people understand how changes within a company impacts them. As organizations grow or downsize, people are promoted, moved to different teams/departments, or asked to report to new executives, and so on. An organizational chart reflects these changes in leadership, team responsibilities, and who everyone reports to.
- An organizational chart is a great way to communicate your brand. Organizational charts today are designed to demonstrate an organization’s values and philosophies. The organization’s stance on hierarchy, collaboration, inclusivity, and other concepts are visualized here.
Do small businesses need organizational charts?
The short answer is yes, absolutely.
When organizations are just getting started, or fairly small, there is a tendency to share the load across team members. However, it can lead to a lack of clarity about who owns what areas, what everyone’s individual responsibilities are, and how to measure individual performance.
In small organizations, a defined organizational structure highlights everyone’s key responsibilities, holds them accountable, and allows them to manage their workload without burning out.
What are the different types of organizational charts?
- Vertical organizational chart (hierarchical organization chart)
- Horizontal organizational chart (flat organizational chart)
- Matrix organizational chart
- Creative organizational chart
Vertical organizational chart examples and templates
The vertical organizational chart, or hierarchical chart, is the traditional organizational chart we see in many organizations. The layout positions the CEO at the very top, with her direct reports below her, their reports below them, and so on.
The goal of a vertical organizational chart is to present the reporting relationships between employees. Let’s take a look at the healthcare organizational chart template below.
This healthcare vertical organizational chart is helpful for employees to understand who they report to, who their peers report to, and the types of responsibilities every individual carries.
Although the layout itself is minimalist, the healthcare-themed illustrated icons bring color and life to the design. It looks professional, incorporates branded design, and provides something a bit more engaging for employees.
You can also use illustrated icons to differentiate between departmental organizational chart designs. That can help new hires and executives alike understand right away what they’re looking at.
For a more modern look and feel, take a look at this alternate take on a healthcare organizational chart template. It incorporates a digitized background design and a flat color palette.
If choosing a design style for your organizational chart feels challenging, consider your organization’s brand guidelines. It can provide you with style and color inspiration you need to get started.
Here’s the vertical organizational chart for Apple. You can see it’s a very typical hierarchical chart with lots of layers of leadership.
It’s clear who reports to whom in the upper-management levels at a glance. Companies like Apple also have unique roles such as the Environment, Policy and Social Initiatives executive, or the Apple University Dean. Plotting these types of roles in an organizational chart is essential – it indicates where these roles fall in terms of hierarchy, who they answer to, and what their responsibilities are.
Another aspect of a typical vertical organizational chart is that it’s broken down by organizational functions. This often is referred to as a functional organizational chart.
You can see that in this template, the organizational chart is broken down by function. So the VP or marketing oversees the marketing department. Below the VP of marketing, you find the marketing director, the marketing manager, the marketing lead and so on. This applies to sales, infrastructure, and technology across the chart.
Try applying a unique color for each department or function. This will help whoever is reading it find exactly what they’re looking for with ease. Otherwise, you’ll have numerous tables that look exactly the same and it would take longer for employees to understand what they’re looking at.
Marketing organizational structure template
A traditional marketing organizational structure is broken down by departments. You would have teams entirely dedicated to areas like branding, communications, and digital. It’s also important to identify teams that marketing relies on – like customer success and developers.
With the use of a vibrant color palette, you can clearly identify each department, and who belongs in each. It’s easier to scan and follow over angular lines, especially in more complex organizational structures.
This blue functional organizational chart template is broken down in a similar way to previous templates. The layout is just set to landscape and reads from left to right.
This organizational chart design makes use of employee headshots, and that’s especially helpful to new employees. Now, with the rise of remote work and completely remote employee onboarding, we may not always share an office or break room with fellow co-workers. Using headshots in an organizational chart is a simple way to help folks get acquainted.
Inbound marketing organizational structure example
Hubspot gave a presentation on creating agile teams. They shared a breakdown of how their (powerhouse) marketing department is structured. The breakdown is by specific functions/objectives, channels, and relevant metrics.
You’ll also notice that there is no clear reporting structure, that’s because the objective of this chart design is to highlight how the marketing team operates.
This is what a functional organizational chart can look like within a department. The functions are now teams and channels. Your own organizational chart design will probably look different, since it depends on the types of channels your marketing team is divided into.
Vertical divisional organizational chart
The divisional organizational chart is broken down into its separate business areas of focus.
This type of organizational structure applies to larger organizations with divisions that are geographical, product focused, industry focused, market focused or anything along those lines.
You’ll see that each division has its own marketing team, sales team, and services team. They operate independently of one another and have all the same functions.
When designing your own vertical organizational chart, the key is to group together employees who report to the same manager/executive.
It’s up to you how you visualize those connections. You can use lines and nodes for a typical layout. Or like this vertical organizational chart template, you can use a legend and a varied color palette to indicate the reporting structure.
An organizational chart can also be more than a breakdown of reporting relationships. This organizational chart includes contact information for individual staff. This is especially helpful for new employees or when communicating across departments.
Horizontal organizational chart examples and templates
The horizontal organizational chart, or flat organizational chart, are for organizations with little to no middle management or supervisory roles. Take a look at the below template.
Flat organizational structures can share the same layout as vertical organizational structures. But there are less executive and managerial levels.
The above horizontal organizational chart template also uses a landscape orientation. This helps to emphasize the lack of hierarchical tiers, and extended role of management. While just a design choice, it communicates how the organization is structured at a glance.
Valve, the popular video-game developer, is proud of the flat organizational structure they’ve grown into. Here’s how they visualize their organizational chart in their employee handbook. They include a few quips as well.
This is a fun way for an organizational chart to communicate Valve’s views on hierarchy, structure and collaboration. There is a clear level of camaraderie and togetherness that they aspire to.
It’s also a great example of presenting an organization’s brand and culture through its employee documentation. Rather than just a flat organizational structure with minimal hierarchy, Valve aspires for a completely collaborative organization with no hierarchy at all.
Within a horizontal organizational structure, managers will have a higher set of responsibilities, and more direct reports than a typical manager. This means a marketing manager may have designers, product people, support staff and others who don’t necessarily fall into “marketing” as reports, too.
Lean marketing organizational structure example
Github has a lean marketing organizational structure. The VP oversees many areas, but they are not layered with upper and middle management. Instead, the teams are small and collaborative. This lean marketing organizational chart design demonstrates that.
It’s always helpful to mimic your organizational structure in the design of your organizational chart. Reduce the number of tiers and group teams together in the way that makes most sense. In Github’s lean marketing structure, you can see that where responsibilities overlap, those teams share a color code.
These color palettes can carry over into project sprints and tasks that get tracked in applications like Trello and Asana! It’s a great way to maintain consistency in all your corporate communications.
Matrix organizational structure examples and templates
The matrix organizational chart combines traditional organizational structures. It integrates the top down vertical organizational structure that highlights reporting relationships, with the flexibility of a flat organizational structure where cross-department teams report to project managers.
A matrix organizational chart ties in project planning needs by pairing project managers with interdisciplinary teams. That means the chart needs to highlight departmental or functional managers and their direct reports, as well as the project managers and their reports.
Here’s a detailed look at the layout and reporting structure of a matrix organizational chart:
There is a clear vertical functional structure with functional managers lining the top row. But project managers work with employees from each function, and so form a parallel column to the employees in each function.
In this layout, the tiny squares highlight which employee in each function reports to a project manager.
The simplest way to indicate reporting relationships here is through the use of arrows or lines, and aligning the correct staff vertically with their managers, and horizontally with their project managers.
The matrix organizational structure is necessary for large organizations that have multiple projects going on and need collaboration across departments. Nike’s organizational structure gets a lot of praise, and it happens to be a matrix organizational structure.
Creative organizational chart examples and templates
Many organizations experiment with the structure of the company. Whether there is a desire for faster decision-making, smarter experimentation, clear channels of communication, improved accountability or something else, how your organization is structured makes the difference.
Startups and major corporations alike often adopt creative organizational structures that achieve a company goal. Let’s take a look at some of those types of organizational charts.
Spotify’s organizational chart example: Tribes, squads and guilds
Spotify, the well-known audio-streaming service, is known for its unique tribe organizational structure. Due to its growth and success, many startups have tried to adopt the same organizational structure, or some variation of it and make it work for them.
At a glance, it may seem strange and overly-complex. But the organizational structure facilitates the level of communication and collaboration Spotify needed (and still needs) to grow quickly and reliably.
It starts with a tribe and its tribe leads. They lead the squads that oversee different areas of the product. Across the squads in each tribe you’ll have chapters that facilitate communication between the squads, and chapter leads.
Of course, there are numerous tribes across the organization. They work fairly independently of one another on a wide range of things that may or may not overlap. As these individuals learn from new experiences, problems, outcomes and so on, they need to share information, tools, code, and best practices.
These folks form guilds which include members across tribes. People can also belong to multiple guilds.
Spotify’s tribal organizational structure is meant to cut down on bureaucracy, which naturally builds as a company grows to hundreds or thousands of staff. This way Spotify can still collaborate effectively as an organization, deliver projects sooner, implement changes faster, grow better, and behave in a far more responsive manner.
You can also see from the way the organizational charts are arranged, there is an emphasis on fluidity within structure, rather than rigidity.
Zappos organizational chart example: Holacratic organizational structure
Zappos is an online shoe and clothing retailer. They’re also known for having a unique culture and organizational structure. They share insights on their approach to structure on Zappos Insights. This includes the fact that they are a holacracy.
A holacracy has a decentralized leadership, rather than one concentrated in an individual or handful of people. It aims to distribute power typically reserved to executives across an organization to all employees. It rejects the notion of hierarchy completely. The benefit is that it enables regular staffers to put forth ideas, collaborate with other employees, and work with minimal restrictions.
Here’s an example of what a holacratic organizational chart looks like:
You can see right away there aren’t any lines, columns or rows like in the previous organizational chart examples. Employees belong in a space that is shared, brought together in areas of specific functions and tasks.
A complete holacratic organizational chart would be a cluster of super-circles representing departments or functions, with smaller groups of circles for specific areas.
How to create your organizational chart in Venngage
As an online visual communication tool, creating any type of organizational chart can be done in minutes.
First, go ahead and set yourself up with a free Venngage account. This will let you access templates and use our editor. It’s not a trial and doesn’t require any payment info.
Head over to the organizational chart templates page. Choose a template that looks appealing to you.
Then, in the editor, access neat features to customize your organizational chart design. Apply your branding, add organizational sections and levels, upload employee headshots, and include a range of icons for an engaging design.
When choosing color palettes or fonts, keep in mind accessible design principles. You want an organizational chart that anyone can read and comprehend with ease.
Get started with Venngage for Business
Creating an organizational chart may just be the latest in your visual communication needs. To align and organize your teams through visuals more effectively, check out Venngage for Business.
- Easily design diagrams, infographics, presentations, data visuals, and so much more
- Apply consistent, professional branding to your designs with My Brand Kit
- Collaborate on designs with your team members
- Receive design consultations from expert in-house designers
- Get 24-hour priority support as a business member and more!
For additional resources for planning and organizing your teams or even company, check out these blog posts!