5 Ways to Stay Visible in a Flat Organization

You might be doing a great job, but does your manager know it? Do they recognize your contributions and would you be among the short list of people they think of for exciting new projects or future promotional opportunities?

In flat organizations, you get less time with the boss

As organizations become flatter, the size of staff under any given reporting manager is becoming larger. This leaves them less time to spend with each employee individually. Moreover in many flatter organizations, managers have not just managerial responsibilities, but also strategic project responsibilities. They might be meeting with clients or vendors and leading one or more strategic initiatives for the organization.

At one point in my career 15 people reported to me. I relied on heavily on a mentoring program within the group to help new employees get up to speed and be successful. I relied on my project management team to keep the highest priority projects moving and overcome challenges within a project. While I did my best to stay informed and check in with each person each week, sometimes travel and other distractions got in the way. The individuals on my team who were proactive about keeping me informed also received the most support.

Let’s look at 5 concrete things you can do to get and stay visible.

Idea #1: Send your Manager an Article

Sending an article shows that you are aware professionally and are considering the broader impact of your role and decisions you make day-to-day. Ensure the article is relevant to your organization, in terms of a current priority or a decision that is being discussed. This shows you are becoming aware of the broader challenges your organization is facing and interested in helping out.

Idea #2: Request a 30, 60, or 90 Day Review

Look for feedback about how you are doing. Be prepared to ask questions about where the company is headed so that you can learn how to frame your value in terms the manager will understand. Provided that you get to spend 30 minutes or so with the manager, use this time to learn about his/her preferred methods of communication, current priorities, and challenges. Also ask questions that will help you understand how the perceive your work and what’s most important to them in terms of being successful in that job.

Idea #3: Plan Strategic “Fly-Bys”

One of my past managers would do what we called a “fly by”. He’d come out of a meeting with the board or a call with a client or partner and drop by to land a significant project on your lap. Not a lot of context. Not a lot of direction. Just, “hey can you start looking into this. It’s really important because…”. He nearly always got people to act because of the perceived importance.

Now, I’m not suggesting you try this directly on your boss, but why not drop by just to say “hi” and have a brief conversation? To prepare for this conversation, have one important topic at hand and be clear why it is important within the context of your organization. You could use this to frame an article you sent or to talk about a challenge you just overcame in a project that you think they should know about for some reason.

One topic that your manager will care about. Aim for a 3-5 minute conversation. Don’t sit down unless asked to do so. Just talk for a bit, make your point, get a bit of input, and then leave. If you develop a habit of doing this once every week or two, your manager will learn that you are going to share something relevant and you won’t take an unnecessary amount of their time in idle chit chat.

Idea #4: Submit a Weekly Report by Email

Include your current projects, what you’ve completed, and any outstanding issues. Again, short and informative is key. Make it an easy read that just focuses on the key points. If there are any outstanding issues in the report, you might include them and then use the “drop by” method to ask a question about it.

Idea #5: Leverage your Stakeholders

In many organizations, stakeholders have a lot of influence over which business analysts are assigned to their project. By cultivating strong business stakeholder relationships, using many of the same techniques above, you’ll have your stakeholders talking about you and keeping you visible in discussions or meetings where you might not even be present.

Flatter organizations are becoming more common. Hours of face time with a manager each week is most often not a viable option. It’s not effective way for knowledge workers to make the best possible contributions. But minimal face time should not translate into no face time. It’s important to be proactive about staying visible and I hope these ideas we came up with help you as well.

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4 thoughts on “5 Ways to Stay Visible in a Flat Organization”

  1. CJ,

    Thanks for this addition. It is a great one and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it when writing up this post. Understanding your manager’s perspective and what makes them successful enables you to go above and beyond in a way that matters and will get results within your organization. If they begin to trust that you won’t just do what they ask you to do, but that you will also do what they really need you to do (but might not think to ask) you will be trusted with bigger projects and responsibilities over time.


  2. All great ideas for a topic that is near to all aspiring BA’s! Another thought is to thoroughly understanding your manager’s role in the organization and find ways that you can make him/her look good. Most managers have significant responsibilities on top of managing project resources, etc. Make their job easier by providing quality work and anticipating expectations from the level of leadership above your manager. If you are tasked to start tracking your time spent on projects more critically – don’t just produce snazzy Excel workbooks with the information. This exercise might be part of a top-down driven initiative to better understand the organization’s project cost structures. Anticipate these scenarios and augment any report with value-add information that would facilitate better decision making. In this example, you might provide research that identifies trends in the amount of time necessitated for gathering requirements – along with your ideas on how costs could be better managed during early phases of projects. Don’t just aim for standing out in your role – work on making your manager stand out in theirs.

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