How to Draw an Org Chart


Org chart

There are a number of ways to create an organization chart. It's possible to draw an org chart with the basic drawing tools in a word processor or a spreadsheet program, but using software designed for the purpose will make the process much easier. No matter what type of software you use, or even if you just use a pencil and paper, this article will help guide you through the process of how to draw an org chart.

Formatting an Organization Chart

No matter what tool you use to create an org chart, the rules for formatting the boxes are the same.

The most common arrangement for the boxes in an organization chart design is a horizontal layout of the first level below the top position, and a vertical layout below this. Here's how the layout using this format should look:

Mixed formatting

Combined horizontal/vertical layout

This type of org chart layout is preferred over using a horizontal format for all levels, which would produce this:

Horizontal layout

Horizontal layout

As you can see, the combined horizontal/vertical layout uses the space on a page much more efficiently.

In the horizontal arrangement, the boxes are aligned in a row below a horizontal connecting line that groups them together. The horizontal line connects to the bottom of the manager's box. This indicates that all of the positions represented by the boxes attached to the horizontal connector report to the manager.

Horizontal

In the vertical arrangement, the boxes are aligned in a column at either the left or right of a vertical line that groups them together. The vertical line connects to the bottom of the manager's box, indicating that all of the positions represented by the vertical column of boxes report to the manager.

Vertical

Multi-column formats can be used to shorten long columns of reports, as shown below.

Formatting

Specialized Formats

Assistants and co-managers have special formats in an org chart drawing.

Assistants

Assistants are shown on a side line, below the position that they assist, but above the reports to that position.

Formatting

Co-Managers

When two people manage a group of reports as co-managers they are shown with connecting lines above and below the boxes of the co-managers.

Co-manager

In this example, the VP of Engineering and VP if IT are co-managers of the Software and IT group.

Formatting the Boxes

Content

The title of the position (the job title) and the name of the person who occupies it are shown each box in the chart. As you draw an org chart, always show the title above the name, because positions define the organizational structure, not the people who currently occupy them. This allows you to change people within a position without changing the structural arrangement of the chart.

Content

You can add other fields to a box too. Adding a phone number is one common addition.

More fields

Size

All of the boxes in an organization chart should either be the same size, or the boxes at the top of the chart should be no smaller than the boxes lower down the chart.

The one exception to this rule is the multi-person box.

Multi-Person Boxes

A multi-person box combines all the people with the same title into one box. Using a multi-person box can save a considerable amount of space compared with assigning each person a seperate box. Space considerations matter when creating an org chart, as they can become quite large.

Multi-person boxes

Chart Direction

Normally, an organization chart starts with the leader of the organization at the top and flows down the page. However you can also draw an org chart from bottom to top, or from right to left.

Bottom to top

Bottom to Top

Left to right

Left to Right

People with Multiple Roles

Particularly in smaller organizations, one person may manage multiple parts of the organization. Let's examine how to deal with these situations when drawing an org chart.

The Manager with More than One Department

Suppose in a small technology company, Paul Smith, the CEO, also acts as VP of Engineering. Both the management team and all of the programmers report to him. So, how do you draw an org chart to show this?

Instead of engaging in exotic formatting, it's best to draw both positions in the chart and show Paul as occupying both of them. Remember the organizational structure is based on positions, not the people that occupy them. Following this simple guideline will give you a more functional org chart.

Functional org chart

This chart also shows how an org chart can be useful for planning. This one suggests that perhaps, some day, Paul should hire a VP of Engineering.

The Employee Who Wears Multiple Hats

The other type of multiple-hat situation is an employee who is directed by more than one manager. While its not unusual for an employee to work in several teams, and take direction from more than one manager, there is usually just one position to which they report. This is the position that hires them, sets their salary, and is the (one) position they report to in an organization chart.

But there are exceptions. One common example is an assistant that works for three managers. How do you draw an org chart thats show these multiple-person relationships?

The best way to show relationships outside the hierarchy of a normal org chart layout is with a dotted line connecting the boxes of two positions.

Connecting lines

Jane reports to Dan because he sets her salary and hired her. This connection is shown with a solid line. But she assists Tony and Linda, as well as Dan. Therefore, when drawing an org chart, her connection to their positions is represented with a dotted line.

It's not useful to try and impose the structure of multiple teams on the organization chart with lots of dotted lines. Too many and the chart becomes a mess. Its better to create separate org charts for each team. A team chart shows the role of team leader in the center with the other team members, and their roles, surrounding it.

Team chart

A team chart

How to Choose the Best Tool for Creating an Org Chart

Understanding the basics of how to draw an org chart will help you create a functional chart for your organization. But having a tool designed for the purpose of creating an org chart will save a lot of time and effort.

While most ordinary drawing software provides the tools to draw lines and boxes, you still need to arrange the boxes and lines manually with a mouse. This can be quite time-consuming. Drawing an org chart is much easier and you'll get better results if you use software that automatically formats the organization chart for you.

Share this page: