Three “Must-Do’s” to Ensure Successful Organization Design

Have you ever wondered what separates successful organization design projects from those that fail? As with many types of projects, the success or failure of organization design initiatives is often determined by factors that are well within a leader’s control. In fact, change management consultancy Prosci has found that projects with “extremely effective sponsors”, or project leaders, are nearly three times more likely to succeed than those with ineffective sponsors.

When it comes to organization design, success is attainable if you’re willing to prioritize, focus and collaborate. We’ve outlined how these three “must-do’s” can help you succeed in your next organization design or transformation effort:

1. Treat it like a top-priority project. Good organization design should start with a project charter, a project lead, and a cross-functional team. Make the time to contract with your organization design and change partners, ensuring that you all are on the same page with the intent, assumptions, and guardrails for the project before you begin.

Get clear about who will be on your design team, ensuring that you “get the whole system in the room” to provide context and advise you on the pros and cons of the many trade-off decisions you’ll have to make. This also helps create engaged champions for the cause, as people support what they help create. Set regular checkpoints to ensure ongoing alignment and management of risks and issues – just like you would any other top-priority project.

2. Make time for the design work, and get it done quickly. The work of organization design starts with clarity around your value offering and knowing which work activities directly deliver your strategy. Organization charts, metrics, people practices – everything else – must be aligned to deliver on your strategy. Making these alignment choices requires time and focus, allowing your team to deliberate and to select the best options for your organization. Commit the time and energy to knock this out with a sense of urgency, scheduling half or whole days close to each other instead of spreading it out.

In many ways, this is a great time to be doing this work. As day-to-day work has slowed, leaders may have more time to focus on strategy development and long-term planning. We’re finding that virtual facilitation is working very well right now, as every participant is on a level playing field by having to join design sessions virtually. Prior to COVID-19, our design sessions typically consisted of most people participating in-person and only a few joining virtually – putting the remote participants at a disadvantage in terms of inclusion.

3. Enroll your stakeholders. A CHRO we’re working with right now is making time to review his business case and organization design plans with his CEO and peers, getting valuable feedback and support for the effort (again, people support what they help create). The feedback he’s getting is helping him adjust his communications and plan the implementation. Good organization design work means considering stakeholder needs – involve them in the initial process, and then make sure you circle back around and catch them up on your design work and the chain of logic you used to get there.

Successful organization design efforts are projects, and they require prioritization, focus and collaboration to achieve results. If you manage them as you would other top-priority projects, they will be set up for success.