Research Summary

Transparency and “Flat” Self-Governed Organizations

by Ethan S. Bernstein


An increasing number of organizations, including several recently in the press, are adopting “flat,” manager-less, self-governed organizational structures. When hierarchy is flattened and bureaucracy is dissolved, peer observation can become far more important as a governing constraint. 

Does transparency, in the absence of hierarchy, yield organizations that operate innovatively, effectively, and efficiently, or does it recreate the worst of high-school cliques within adult organizations? When implemented correctly, these organizations can be highly successful, but initial research suggests that “correctly” involves some degree of well-designed boundaries to transparency.