And then there’s the organisation design!

I thought that I had better follow on quickly from my most recent post where I described the shift one can get when people’s beliefs change. As you’d expect, in modern organisations, beliefs are key drivers of choice but there are other factors at play – including the organisation design.

The organisation design shapes the environment in which people attempt to do the right thing. That environment can, in turn, shape one’s beliefs about what’s really necessary and what’s actually possible.

Unfortunately, many organisations create a space that discourages or, at the very least, doesn’t reward the right choices. I’m probably not describing your company here but in many companies the organisation design actually creates barriers and confusion and tends to reward people who play politics rather than those who make value adding decisions.

I often find myself wondering what people think about when they are ‘designing’ or restructuring an organisation? Do they ask themselves what outcomes their design is meant to produce or do they simply repeat the patterns they have experienced in the past or follow some ‘rules’ that someone described many years ago? Or do they just try to recruit clever people and then hope that they sort it out?

Please comment on this if you feel so inclined but I don’t think I’ve ever worked with a group who has properly asked that question of themselves; “What outcomes do we want this design to provide for us?” (apart from the usual cost savings/head count when we get desperate of course)

Here are some things that our organisation design should do for us

It should create a space (physical and psychological) that facilitates connections. And those connections should make information flow where it needs to go in the most useful form and at the right time. Information is the life blood (the basis of value adding decisions) of all organisations is it not?

The design should create clarity of purpose and of which roles do what, how well and when. It should specify the types of people we want – their values and their capability – and the roles into which we’ll place them. The old fashioned term for this component is ‘structure’ – a highly underrated aspect of organisation design.

Imagine if you had a structure where everyone knew, with real clarity, what they were accountable for and that they had the authority to make the necessary decisions to deliver on that accountability.

The design should also articulate the essential organisational systems and how those systems interact with one another and with the people such that work gets done to the highest possible standard.

Finally, the design should consider the leadership requirements of the organisation. Given the structure we have designed and the systems that make things tick; what type of leadership is needed to make people feel valued and valuable?

As I get older – rapidly it seems :) - I find more and more that the performance of large groups is very much shaped by structure. It’s entirely possible that if we get the design (structure) right our people will better be able to manage themselves to do the right work!