Organisational flattening and the implications for internal stakeholders and communication : a systematic literature review
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Commerce
An increasingly competitive business environment means organisational change must often occur from within, through activities such as organisational flattening. This has implications on organisational communication as those removed from the organisation (often middle managers) are often the most crucial to communication within an organisation. The aim of this thesis is to understand the activity of organisational flattening and the implications it has for internal stakeholders and organisational communication. Through undertaking a comprehensive systematic literature review, a clear summary and synthesis of the relevant literature in the research area was produced. After following a pre-defined method and protocol, 67 eligible resources were utilised to answer three research questions: (1) What is organisational flattening and how is it being used in contemporary organisations?; (2) How do internal stakeholders experience organisational flattening that involves reducing or removing middle management?; and (3) What are the consequences for organisational communication of flattening the organisational structure? After completing the review, several valuable findings emerged. Firstly, organisations engage in flattening to remain competitive, become more efficient internally and to empower and develop internal stakeholders. Secondly, all stakeholders experience less role clarity as a result of delayering, while lower-level employees can often no longer rely on the organisation for career development after flattening (as their opportunities for internal promotions decrease). Thirdly, a flatter organisational structure allows for an increase in communication frequency between internal stakeholders, but this communication may not always be positive, due to low role clarity, morale and work-related stress (brought on by engaging in an organisational flattening). Finally, a clear lack of research on the communication implications of organisational delayering led to a significant research opportunity – the opportunity to specifically study delayering as a unique form of organisational change and to identify the challenges and opportunities this activity introduces. This thesis will prove valuable to practitioners looking to learn about or engage in organisational delayering activities, and serve as a rigid, concise resource for further research in the areas of delayering and organisational communication – an area that is becoming more relevant as business environments change.