Keys to Building a Dynamic Organization Design Team

A few weeks ago, I had a conversation with two executives of a mid-sized company, who were thinking about how to launch a strategic organization design effort to align their business to a new strategic direction.  One of their main concerns was making sure the right people were involved in the strategic organization design discussions.  While there are many things that are key to achieving success, they were right to zero in on the design team’s make-up. 

That conversation reminded me how important it is to get the right voices in the room when undertaking organization design work. So important, in fact, that organization design team building should be considered an essential part of the organization design process.

Getting the Right Voices in the Room

There are a few reasons why having the right people involved is critical to the ultimate success of any organization design effort. The number of people involved, as well as their backgrounds, ways of thinking, and relationships with each other and within the organization impact the quality and speed of decision making.

Asking the following organization design team building questions can ensure that the right people are in the room to best plan and facilitate the changes you want to make in your organization:

  1. What is the ideal number of people to be in the room? There’s a fine line between enough and too many. A larger group requires a correspondingly larger planning and facilitation effort. There is typically less consensus with a larger group, so it takes longer to achieve buy-in and get things done. Decisions that could have been made easily in a straightforward fashion with eight voices in the room suddenly take much longer when there are twenty. The ideal number will vary according to your organization’s needs. Aim to keep your group size as small as possible while still achieving the diversity of perspectives necessary for the work at hand.  Usually 8-12 is a good range.
  • How diverse is the group? While too many people in the room can hamper the decision making process, having a diverse group of people is nonetheless important. The right mix of people who have different skills and backgrounds will bring a balanced representation of viewpoints to the table.  Including these different perspectives in the discussion helps ensure that the group doesn’t overlook important considerations that may not at first be obvious.
  • How will you spark innovation in the group? Even if you have brought a diverse group of people into the room, you may still have a group of people who all think the same way. For instance, a group of people who have always belonged to the same industry, or who have been in the same company for a long time, often will share very similar ways of thinking. If enough differing points of view are not present within a group, it may be necessary to come up with means or mechanisms for introducing new ways of thinking, to spark dynamic discussion and innovative solutions. This may include such things as assigning a challenger/devil’s advocate role, pulling in a customer voice, engaging a subject matter expert, undertaking some benchmarking field trips, etc. 
  • What are the political implications? The political dynamic should also be considered when choosing who should be included on an organization design team. Such decisions often demand careful thought. For instance, who in the organization carries political weight, and why? Will you be doing yourself a disservice by not including them?

In addition to deciding who will be in the room, it is also important to determine how decisions will be made. Will everyone have an equal voice in the discussion? Will certain people be allocated voting rights? Or will a single leader make the final decisions once everyone’s input has been considered? Consider your decision making approach carefully to make sure it fits with the needs and culture of your organization.

A Results-Oriented Approach to Organization Design Team Building

Any time you plan to undertake organization design work it’s essential to put some thought into who will be part of the design team. This also applies to other types of teams in your organization, such as strategy teams or project teams. 

If people with different ideas and perspectives aren’t brought into the room, you will likely not end up with the fresh, innovative solutions you need to move your company forward. Asking the above organization design team building questions will help ensure that you get the right voices in the room.

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