Tags: chain of command, Horizontal cooperation, horizontal relationships, org chart
In the Navy, our concept of an organization is dominated by the “chain of command” and the quintessential “org chart,” both of which are vertically focused. These concepts do a good job of telling us who we work for, and who works for us. However, they serve little purpose in outlining with whom we should work. These relationships are horizontal in nature and help us navigate the seams of an organization, seams which are readily apparent in a traditional, vertically-focused “org chart.” While vertical relationships are key to authority and responsibility, effective innovation, planning, and execution are typically dependent on horizontal relationships.
The Chief Petty Officers’ Mess is well known for establishing horizontal relationships. Chiefs utilize relationships established during CPO 365 and within the Chiefs’ Mess to solve problems and accomplish the mission. In essence, the effectiveness of the Chiefs’ Mess is based in large part on these horizontal relationships. These horizontal relationships need not be limited to the Chiefs’ Mess, however. Command members at all ranks, officer and enlisted, can and should seek to establish these relationships in order to make themselves and their command or organization more effective.
A good example is the somewhat recent emphasis on the N3/N2 (Ops/Intel) relationship, linking the operator to the intelligence professional, and vice versa. The result has been greater synchronization between these supporting entities. Another example is the establishment of the Information Dominance Corps (IDC), which seeks to establish a close working relationship between information-focused communities. Regardless of where these information-focused professionals work in an organization, a roadmap for their horizontal relationships has been pre-established by the formation of the IDC. The possibilities for horizontal relationships are truly endless, while the potential value in establishing and utilizing these relationships is immeasurable.
Establishing a horizontal relationship takes little effort. Warfare qualification programs, command functions, social events, and command organizations, such as the First Class Petty Officers Association, all encourage the establishment of horizontal relationships. Getting out of your work space and interacting with your peers is another method. Share each other’s roles and responsibilities and seek to identify overlap, and common or supporting efforts. Then establish a relationship and ensure you leverage it whenever necessary or feasible.
Horizontal relationships need not be limited to your own command or organization. Establishing relationships with other commands or supporting staffs can be beneficial as well. Horizontal relationships can also be established within a wider community, leveraging the collective thoughts of a large, diverse group. Tools like the IDC Self-Synchronization website enable establishment and utilization of such relationships.
So the next time you think about the chain of command or look at an org chart, focus on the horizontal vice vertical aspects of the organization. Identify the seams and look for places to establish horizontal relationships, relationships that will help make you and the command more effective. Then set out to navigate the seams.
LCDR Chuck Hall is an Information Warfare Officer and member of the Information Dominance Corps. He enlisted in the Navy in 1988 and served 13 years as a Cryptologic Technician (Interpretive) prior to commissioning as a CWO2. Subsequently selected for LDO, he transitioned to the Restricted Line once he completed his BA in Middle Eastern Studies. He currently serves on the CCSG-8 staff, embarked in USS DWIGHT D. EISENHOWER. When at home he enjoys spending time with his wife and three amazing children. He has also contributed to Connecting the Dots with his blog post Waiting to Lead.