There is nothing more difficult to take in hand, more perilous to conduct, or more uncertain in its success, than to take the lead in the introduction of a new order of things.
— Nicholo Machiavelli, The Prince
Most leaders understand that organization design affects every aspect of how an organization functions—from decision-making to go-to-market actions to ways of working—with the goal of improving efficiency and productivity by identifying areas in an organization where organization choices need to be realigned. The trick can be convincing those same leaders and managers that now is the time to act and make changes.
Why Leaders May be Resistant to Change
Some leaders suffer from a form of tunnel vision, looking through a narrow prism that makes it hard to objectively see how their organization is set up to perform and how it is actually performing. Some even adopt the attitude: I don’t need to make any changes in my area because my team’s results are better than everyone else’s in the company.
On the surface there may seem to be some logic behind the If I’m performing better than anyone else, then why change? argument. Like they say, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. But the flaw in that logic is one of relativity. For example, if everyone in your high school class is getting Ds but you’re getting a C-minus, yes, you’re doing well by comparison. But that doesn’t mean you’d do well in college. In fact, you might not get into college at all when pitted against all the other students competing for admission openings.
What Leaders Can Do
Leaders and stakeholders need to step up, examine their organization’s capabilities objectively, and call for change when it is really needed—a reality check, if you will. It’s crucial to have a practical and realistic understanding of how an organization is poised to compete, deliver, and execute both today and in the future. You need to navigate the tension of when to leave an organization alone and let it perform because it’s set up to perform effectively and when to step in and say: You know what? I think the reality is my organization is struggling or could be doing better than it is. Or even more to the point for most organizations, saying: We might be okay now, but there are indicators that in a year from now, it’s not going to be okay, whether because of changing market trends, new technologies, increased competition, or whatever. Even though it may not be broken today, it may not be well‑suited to the direction things are moving.
Here are three questions to ask when determining if the time is right to undertake an organization realignment:
- Is our business performance really as good as it could be, or is it just better than our peers, relatively speaking?
- If we look around the corner at possible coming trends, is the organization still likely to be effective or is there something lurking out there that would suggest change is needed?
- When looking ahead at how I see the market changing, do I want to get different results? This third question is important because even if things are currently going well, looming disruptors may demand change now before expectations on your organization shift and put it behind.
The Increasing Pace of Change
Not only does time wait for no one, it’s becoming increasingly impatient with organizations that don’t realign to stay ahead. Those that do not realign in a timely fashion face the prospect of slowly losing their sustainability and eventually becoming a casualty of failing to look at their performance in the context of the larger, increasingly fast-moving market picture.