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What would it mean to form a company whose organization is shaped like a mandala, instead of like a tree or line graph? We can look back at the first decades of Disney for the answer.
Walt Disney understood that the creative masterminds in his budding company would require a lot of access to him and a lot of access to each other in order to collaborate cross departmentally and produce the best results. The organizational structure he ultimately developed looks very much the shape of a mandala, the Eastern geometric circle best known for meditation on ephemera.
It is uncertain whether or not Disney intended this, for the mandala was not well known in the early twentieth century in the United States. But let’s rewind a little bit. Why did this come about?
Disney’s Organizational Genius
Walt Disney was heavily involved in his studio’s first feature film productions and shorts. He worked hand in hand with his creative directors and artists in order to create a superior product, which created a legacy that still resounds around the world today. For better or worse, Disney is known for its creative powerhouse.
However, as the company scaled, Disney ran into a problem. He could see that his work as CEO of the Disney studio would take him away from creative direction, and feared the films might suffer as a result of a conventional organizational model. So he decided to create a new type of company structure.
The Company Mandela is Born
Above you can see the original company structure devised by Walt Disney himself. Notice that it is a company organized in concentric circles, with Walt Disney’s direction placed at the center. He wanted his teams to have open access to him, as well as centralized touchpoints throughout the organization, so there were no silos as found in a conventional company structure.
A conventional company structure looks more like a tree, but upside down. The trunk equals the C-Suite and, from there, the branches are made of managing partners, directors, team leads, and ultimately, the workers. They are all in their own silos and may cross collaborate, but to a limited capacity.
These two images look very different. Disney didn’t want what happens so commonly to the CEO in business scaling. The CEO gets so far removed from the newest hires and entry level workers that the CEO’s ability to influence and direct culture, collaboration, and innovation becomes diluted by its managers.
Think about it like this: the managers and team leads in between the staff and CEO are the diluting factor. There are so many lines of communication to go through before one can reach the CEO that the CEO’s influence is ultimately diluted and even destroyed.
This is my prediction for what happened at Amazon. Amazon was once a creative powerhouse. However, it is well known that entry level and factory level workers today report a difficult (to put it politely) working environment. It is my guess that the company culture was not organized in such a way that curated the ideals and influences of the original leaders. Like so many, they assumed that whatever original environment was developed would linger.
Your Job as CEO
Many of my followers are freelancers and small-preneurs. They own small businesses with one to five employees. Thus, their influence remains high across their teams. Unfortunately, these founders don’t realize that, in order to scale, sell, or retire, that intimate level of connection and communication between founder and employee will disappear, and the company culture will be vulnerable to any outside influence.
Have a look again at Walt Disney’s organizational structure and consider for yourself: is this the type of legacy you wish to leave in your company when you leave it? Or are you satisfied with letting whatever influences may come along change the course of what you created?