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Designing the Perfect Organisational Chart for your Veterinary Business

Posted in Management @ Nov 15th 2011 2:18pm - By Judy Gillespie
Birds flying in unison

Do you have an organisational chart for your veterinary business?  If not, then why not?

Many small businesses assume that they don’t need an organisational chart as everyone knows what they have to do.  To a certain degree this may be true – at the moment - but as we all know things change.

Why should I bother with an organisational chart anyway?

An organisational chart clearly outlines:

  • Who is responsible for what;
  • Who is responsible to whom; and
  • The lines of communication and the chain of command.

Putting together an organisational chart for your business can be a very interesting exercise.  It forces you to consider the levels of authority and decision making that actually exists within your practice which may in fact be at odds with the way you would like it to be.

The exercise also offers a great opportunity to consider some contingency plans for key people and positions within your business – what would you do if they left tomorrow?  Now is the time to plan some cross training!

Ok – so what do I need to know before I start?

There are a few important things to consider when you’re designing your organisational chart:

  • You need to think carefully about the relationships that you are formalising, you can revise your structure but it’s very difficult to recreate relationships once you’ve put them on a chart;
  • Like it or not, reporting relationships dictate the perceived importance and power of people.

If you’re using the traditional hierarchical structure, then there are also some points to consider.  Firstly, those positions on the same level can be assumed to have similar levels of authority, responsibility, decision making, and therefore pay levels (hmm - this in itself could certainly start some interesting discussions!).  Secondly, it is absolutely essential that every position has only ONE person to whom they are directly responsible i.e. everyone should only have one boss for obvious reasons! 

An employee might work with a number of people throughout their day but only one person should be ultimately responsible for directing their daily duties.  A dotted line on your chart can indicate that a position works closely with a particular team, but a solid line indicates their chain of command.  If this is unclear in your business, then it’s the first thing you need to sort out as I guarantee it is causing your team confusion, inefficiencies and grief.

But I’ve got a few ‘strong’ personalities who won’t be happy when they see where their actual position is on the chart...

If this is the case then it’s time to start planning and now may not be the best time to share your chart with the rest of the team.  If you have never had an organisational chart in your business before then relationships, decision making, authority and the accompanying power may have grown organically.  This means that certain powerful personalities may now control more of the authority and decision making than their position actually warrants.  This is where you need to tread carefully.  Start by putting together a chart of how things look currently – be brutally honest. Now it’s time to put together a chart on how you would like things to look in the future.  The next step is to start considering how you are going to get your business from the current reality to how you would your business to look in the future – and that’s a topic for a whole different blog.  Suffice to say keep both charts locked away ‘for your eyes only’ for the moment!

How do I go about putting my chart together?

How you put your chart together depends on your computer skills & access to software.  I would suggest you start by listing all the positions within your business.  Then sketch the chart out on paper or a whiteboard as it can be quite fiddly with lines and boxes going everywhere.  I’ve tried using the ‘organisational chart’ function in ‘Smart Art’ in Word but I haven’t been able to get the flexibility I need.  I have the same problem with any free software I’ve come across so I tend to put it together using either Word or Publisher and inserting boxes and lines where required. 

Obviously the finished chart will depend on your business but a basic example might look something like this:

If you would like a copy of this example chart in Word - Check out our Vetanswers Resources section.

Just remember, once shared your organisational chart will take on a life of its own and it will become a map for how things work in your practice.  So before you do share it with your team, make sure it won’t become a source of disagreement and stress.

Tell us in the comments section below if you have an organisational chart and how it works in your business.  Also if you know of easy to use, inexpensive (free!) software that helps to design great organisational charts, can you also please share in the comments section below?

Comments

mwarren_dvm @ Nov 16th 2011 11:53pm
Excellent post Judy. I have found an Organizational Chart is a critical factor for growth of any practice or business. Without the detailed Job Descriptions & Obligations, it is difficult to overcome that critical mass which is often the ceiling for any small business. Also not to mention when that special person who knows how everything works and has been with you for years leaves - suddenly your practice is in a painful and damaging position without the detailed knowledge available for rapid replacement training. The challenge is keeping everything up-to-date and relevant. Thanks for the post Judy!
Judy Gillespie @ Nov 17th 2011 2:48pm
Thanks for your comment Michael - much appreciated :) You're right - the challenge is in keeping everything up-to-date along with everything else that has to be done! An org chart can be such a great planning tool - even putting one together for your 'perfect practice' can be a great exercise in formalising what you would really like to achieve.
Shalin @ Dec 6th 2017 5:38pm
It can be hierarchical, flat and if the business is large it can be a matrix structure. Few examples with details are available in the diagram community of Creately Org Chart Software

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