Oriane Letouze


Hierarchical structure, an old method which still works fine


The article entitled “ Why hierarchies thrive?,” written by Harold J. Leavitt, was published in the Harvard Business Journal, in March 2003. The author explained that despite their bad reputations, hierarchies are essential and useful for companies and that is why they prosper.

First, Leavitt argued that hierarchies last because they are adaptable. In fact, he cited three major management changes during the last fifty years: first, managers began to improve human relations within companies; second, they adopted analytic management to improve the firm’s profitability; and finally, managers created communities of practice, which are groups of people which work together on a same project. These changes have permitted the development of hierarchies.

On the other hand, the author stated that people like being evaluated in society. With its rules, inequalities, and promotions, hierarchy is the perfect tool to estimate “people’s grades”. Because of this, people can appraise their friends’ and own place on the ladder of success.  Moreover, hierarchies organize people’s lives because they create habits, responsibilities, and duties; thus they structure the way people think.

Finally, Leavitt showed the hierarchy’s limitations and the common issues that it causes. The main problem was and continuous to be communication. Indeed, when information is conveyed from workers to managers and vice versa, it can get distorted because of self-protection or random mistakes. In addition, because of hierarchy, managers cannot act as a colleague; instead, they always have to stay conscious of reality because they represent the authority.

To conclude, the author explained that hierarchical structures are going to last because they are effective and efficient.



Leavitt, H. J. (2003). Why hierarchies thrive. Havard Journal. 96-102


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