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I'm looking for a term that measures the level to which a business is flat or hierarchical in its organizational structure. For instance, if an org has an average of 10 employees per manager, it's fairly flat. If it has 2 per manager, it's fairly hierarchical.

Is there a measurement term for this N=2 or N=10 type of difference?

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    Flatness, perhaps?
    – Andrew Leach
    Nov 17, 2014 at 13:53
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    I wouldn't worry about it. I survived 40 years in business organisations without knowing what it is.
    – WS2
    Nov 17, 2014 at 15:46
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    A possibly-related term is bushiness (“The characteristic of being bushy”). From en.wiktionary, bushy means “Like a bush in having many widely spread branches”. Nov 17, 2014 at 15:53

2 Answers 2

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We have deep hierarchies and we have flat hierarchies, so rather unsurprisingly we have hierarchy depth or flatness, though the latter is a bit of a mouthful and the former is much more common.

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Direct reports is used to refer to the people a manager supervises. The number of employees per manager can be referred to as the average number of direct reports, or the average direct report count. A flat organization will have a high average direct report count. This would be similar to how schools are sometimes compared according to their average classroom size.

When looking at an organization chart, it resembles an upside fan. In computing, the breadth of the fan is sometimes referred to as the fan-out, or fanout. A flat organization will tend to have a higher fan-out, than one that is less flat.

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  • I more often see it written "fanout". In fact I'm not sure if I've ever seen it as "fan out" until your answer. (But +1 regardless.)
    – Charles
    Nov 17, 2014 at 19:02
  • @Charles: Ah, the two word version is a verb, used to tell people to go out and do something. Thanks for that.
    – jxh
    Nov 17, 2014 at 19:26

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