Organization Design Is More Than an Answer

An organization redesign isn’t a monolithic endeavor. It’s multi-faceted with three primary elements that must be addressed both individually as well as collectively: 1) coming up with the optimal organizational blue print, the “answer” if you will; 2) aligned thinking by the organization’s leaders; and 3) an understanding of how to execute in the redesigned organization.

Finding and Representing the Answer

When we undertake an organization redesign, there tends to be a lot of energy expended toward getting the answer, and by that I mean a blueprint or an architecture of how we’re going to change the organization. The notion is that if we get the right answer, then all of our problems go away. But in addition to an answer, we also need to make sure the leaders of the organization are personally committed to that direction because it can be tempting to create an answer that only exists on a PowerPoint deck. We’ve seen where consultants get hired to put PowerPoint decks together and somehow that alone is supposed to convey the brilliance of a new organizational solution. It doesn’t because it’s presented in a vacuum and out of context. When that plan is shared with people in the organization, their reactions are often skeptical: That’ll never work or That doesn’t make any sense or That’s a fine idea, but I’m not supportive of it for whatever reason. So merely having an answer is not enough to move an organization transformation forward. For that you also need …

Aligned Thinking

To achieve your desired strategic results, you need to get people’s thinking aligned as far as how changes to the organization’s design will deliver on the organization’s strategy. That’s particularly true for the leaders who need to espouse, sponsor, and support whatever the strategic change is. Put another way, an effective organization design process will yield more than an answer; it will also take key leaders through a process of shaping their thinking about how a new organization design will lead to new results. And getting leaders aligned on what they want to do is a better predictor of a successful organization redesign than coming up with the world’s best answer. If you ask ten executives: How will your organization achieve the strategy you want to establish, you will likely get ten different answers at the outset. Some might say it’s all about customer service; others will think it’s all about the efficiency of the supply chain. Another will believe it should focus on product development. The key is not just agreeing on the end result, but aligning the thinking on how you’re going to go about doing it.

Likewise, until every stakeholder understands and supports the redesign answer (blueprint/plan/architecture) as well as their role and the desired end result, you’ll tread organizational water, unable to move forward. Once thinking is aligned then you can work out the specific details of what steps and actions are needed—both individually and collectively, from the leaders on down to the rank-and-file—to get it to work.

Aligning thinking comes down to the proven tools and methods used to bring people together. It doesn’t happen by some spontaneous grand compromise; it occurs by using different frameworks that take complex issues, put them on the table, and then allow people to weigh the various options. That’s how you begin to get some clarity. And by working together you not only get a set of decisions but also get agreement and alignment around those decisions.

The Devil Is in the Details

The third aspect to achieving a successful organization redesign is figuring out the details of how things will work and be executed. That is where our Cube Model—featured in our book Mastering the Cubeprovides a helpful framework by helping leaders easily visualize the various elements of their organizations as interrelated parts of a whole. Each side of the Cube Model represents a particular system (work processes, structures and governance, information and metrics, people and rewards, continuous improvement, and culture and leadership). Because certain elements in an organization drive other elements, progression through the sides of the cube follows a specific sequence, which helps leaders facilitate both aligned thinking and deciding on integral details of the redesign. Working your way around the cube provides a process to specify the questions that need to be asked before embarking on the redesign and identifying the answers. It gives critical clarity to a process that might otherwise not be as transparent.

There are no shortcuts to an organization redesign; each pillar must be addressed because they are all necessary for a successful outcome. Every redesign needs its own blueprint, needs the organization’s leaders aligned in their thinking and intent, and needs tools that identify the details that will drive the plan to a successful implementation and provide optimal organizational alignment.