Let’s talk about organizational structure

Have you ever given thought to how you are organized in your company? I mean real thought. Everything seems like it should be working just fine, but it isn’t.

Organizational structure plays a huge role in how you deliver on your mission. Organizations that are structured into silos and those built to provide people jobs will probably suffer or fail.

You’ve spent a lot of time building the right strategy for your organization, but your organizational structure keeps the strategy from materializing.

This is why strategy comes before organizational change and “form meets function.” If you don’t know what you do as an organization–you mission–then it really doesn’t matter how you’re organized because you’re not focused. Thus, you must develop your mission, vision, and goals first.

One of the first objectives in your strategic plan might be to reorganize. But not to simply reorganize, but to reorganize to deliver on your purpose and eliminate redundancies.

Your mission should clue you into your core purpose and process. Many organizations organize around what they deliver and in this case you need to focus on how–not what. Recently I worked with an organization that was focused on what they did. They organized into five separate departments to perform the work. In reality, how they did the work was one of two ways. Once they realized that they were able to organized around how they operated. That took them to two teams focused on the how and not the what.

Second, you need to do a high-level process inventory to understand the redundancies that exist. When you are focused on what, often the same processes are replicated across several or all teams. Specifically, you will find administrative and support type functions often reside in every team at the management levels.

Again, with the team I worked with, we discovered these redundancies and reorganized into two operational delivery teams and a support team. This took their organization from five separate operational teams to two operational teams and one one small support team.

This may seem like radical change, but the result, once the dust settles is an organization, can be phenomenal. Managers get back to leading the work that they couldn’t focus on and similar processes get streamlined to operate more efficiently and effectively.

You’ll notice that I never once mentioned people in the decision. Deciding where people (leaders) fit is the last action once you have decided what the organization looks like. Determine who can deliver the new required activities and has the capabilities to perform. In all cases, this new design will provide opportunities ( some will see as challenges) that will allow them to grow.

In the recent case I was discussing, a new director was created, a director had more responsibility, two managers were able to be at their desks more for their people, and several new job growth opportunities opened up for members of the organization.

As you can see, first comes strategy and then comes organization. Once you have the organization aligned then you can start focusing on other things.


About johnrknotts
John Knotts is a results-oriented business professional leader, manager, and supervisor with experience from the military, small business, several nonprofits, and is currently a management consultant. Working out of the San Antonio, Texas, he retired from the Air Force in July 2008 and worked with Booz Allen Hamilton from the end of October 2008 to December 2011. Now he is a Strategic Business Adviser with USAA. John leads large and small strategic transformations and has extensive experience in the areas of change management, strategic planning, process improvement, strategic communication and marketing, strategic human capital and resource management, education and training, facilitation, organizational design and development, modeling and simulation, financial and budget analysis, activity based costing and management, quality management, competitive sourcing and privatization, leadership development, and business development.

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