Berto Jongman: First Organizational Chart Flows With Function Not Rank

Berto Jongman
Berto Jongman

The First Org Chart Ever Made Is a Masterpiece of Data Design

By Liz Stinson

WIRED, 03.18.14


Click on Image to Enlarge
Click on Image to Enlarge

As the Erie Railway grew, so did the amount of data it had to wrangle: which superintendents were responsible for which set of tracks; schedule changes; who the various conductors, laborers and brakemen worked under. As Caitlin Rosenthal writes over at McKinsey Quarterly, if any one data point was mismanaged it could bring dire results: “One delayed train, for example, could disrupt the progress of many others. And the stakes were high: with engines pulling cars in both directions along a single set of rails, schedule changes risked the deadly crashes that plagued 19th-century railroads.”

This flowery organizational chart was created by Daniel McCallum, the company’s general manager, to efficiently deliver critical information and delegate tasks to the right person. Instead of a top-down structure, the chart flows from its roots like a tree. The power was centralized with the president and board of directors as its anchor, but much of the day-to-day responsibility over the tracks was allocated to lower-level superintendents. The reasoning for this, Rosenthal writes: “They possessed the best operating data, were closer to the action, and thus were best placed to manage the line’s persistent inefficiencies.”

Read full article.

See Also:

Design @ Phi Beta Iota

Graphic: Real Organizational Chart

Review: The Hidden Power of Social Networks–Understanding How Work Really Gets Done in Organizations


Opt in for free daily update from this free blog. Separately The Steele Report ($11/mo) offers weekly text report and live webinar exclusive to paid subscribers, who can also ask questions of Robert. Or donate to ask questions directly of Robert.