Sometimes it seems as if organization design is contagious, like a departmental virus, where one part of the organization decides that they need to undergo an organizational transformation or redesign, and then the next thing you know, another department decides it needs to redesign too. Then soon after a couple more join in and like realignment dominoes falling, everybody’s doing an organization redesign.
On one hand that’s great because it means more work for people like me, but my bigger concern about that phenomenon is implementing a redesign just for the sake of appearing proactive rather than because it is strategically relevant or necessary. Sometimes managers and lower-level executives feel the pressure to initiate a redesign in their area simply to not seem complacent in comparison to others. It’s like they fall victim to a redesign fear of missing out, developing anxiety at the thought someone may be advancing their department or position in the company more than you are. It’s a phenomenon I hear a lot in organizations: Uh-oh. IT and HR are doing a redesign; my department better do one too.
Worrying about keeping up with the company Joneses can cloud the real question: even if you do have some issues that need addressing and improvements, is now the right time? Or is it better to wait to see where things stand after other departments have completed their redesigns? Just because other areas in the organization may be redesigning in and of itself is not a good reason for you to jump onto the bandwagon. First you need to determine whether it will help the business improve its results and whether it’s even the right problem to solve. For example, maybe the issue your are trying to improve is not an organizational redesign problem; perhaps it is a talent problem that could be solved by hiring team members with more appropriate skill sets.
So when considering an organization redesign, you should identify your motivations to make sure that it’s the right move at the right time. In general, a transformation should happen for a couple of very specific reasons:
The strategy has changed, and it is clear that the current organization is not able to deliver. In our book about organizational design, Mastering the Cube, we share our view that strategy is about the future while capabilities are aligned to the past. So when the disparity between strategy and capability becomes a gulf, then it does make sense to change your organization.
Problems with the current organization design have been clearly identified. One common example of that is when an organization cannot add cost, but they need to grow. So in order to support that growth mandate, the leaders have to figure out a way to do more within the current costs. So unless they want their employees eventually working 18 hour days seven days a week, they need a redesign to evolve. Such a redesign might include identifying and removing redundancies or adding technology that makes you more efficient, thereby eliminating wasted time and resources. Organizations can also set up shared services, which is where you pool resources for greater efficiency, mostly with administrative functions that are performed in multiple departments, such as finance, purchasing, inventory, payroll, and IT.
No organization redesign should be initiated as a knee-jerk reaction because it tends to be a very disruptive way of getting things done and improving results. Making sure the time is right, your motivations are right, and a redesign is the right solution for your current problem will help ensure you get the results you need to achieve your desired end goals.