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are organizational charts mickey mouse?

Published by orgvue

We’ve mentioned this 1943 organization chart from Walt Disney before:

Disney Org Chart

Following some small but intensive (armchair) research on its origins to authenticate it I found the source (allegedly) to be an employee handbook.

While looking around at org charts from a few decades ago, I also found this one:

Organisation of the United Staes Department of Agriculture for War Effort

Here’s their current one:

Current USA Department of Agriculture Org Chart

Has there been progress between then and now?

What is it about org charts that offer the viewer such a comfortable sense of knowing something about an organization? If I describe a business or department as a matrix of 7 interconnected departments that report in a hierarchy or show you this: which feels the most insightful?


But organizations exist to fulfil a purpose. For many it is to make money, one hopes with an intent and path they are confident will create the result desired. For Walt Disney (then) it was to make awesome films.

Strategic intent – whether a not-for-profit social enterprise or a global oil giant should be the driving force for organizing resources optimally. Equally important is the need for cultural alignment and buy-in, does every individual in the organization have a genuine opportunity to contribute and feel fulfilled? Maybe this isn’t possible for most, I’m pretty sure the closer you get to it the stronger and fitter the organization.

An interesting note on the Walt Disney chart – it clearly states at the bottom it is not an organization chart that reflects reporting lines. It is a visual representation of the creative work flow. What I think it illustrates better than most is the remarkable closeness of thinking between the creative process (strategic intent – to produce brilliant movies), business process (the mechanics of how to achieve the intent) and resources (the teams / roles that are involved).

With OrgVue we are championing the return to a joined-up, system-wide view of our organizations.