7 Steps to Straightforward Organizational Design

Every organization – regardless of size, age, complexity, or mission – will at some point face a changing landscape that will result in new and unique challenges.  Some organizations will be structured in such a way that they can easily adapt to the new realities and requirements of their situation.  Most won’t.

No organization is static.

Organizations will, from time to time, require re-design, re-alignment, or re-habilitation.

This is where the many challenges of Organization Design become apparent.  Organizations are made up of people, and where people are involved the results will be complex and messy.  Modern managers have enough mess and complexity to handle in their day-to-day existence; they aren’t on the lookout for more.  Sadly, we can’t bring simplicity to their organization without also removing all of the people.

We also can’t provide a comprehensive organizational design course in the context of a company blog.

What we can offer are some guideposts to help you, the manager, keep the goal in sight as you work through the complexities of this process.

The 7 Fundamentals

  1. Involve employees and key stakeholders in the design process:  Use the management team as the consultative group to work through acceptable options.
  2. Form follows function:  Focus on identifying the core functions.  Everything else is likely a waste of time and energy.  Efficient structures will emerge.
  3. Integration versus differentiation:  Identify logical clusters of related functions and activities – strike a balance between service delivery and functional expert roles.
  4. Trade off between hierarchical versus flat structures:  Focus on effective horizontal management practices while framing boundary spanning mechanisms.
  5. Identify clear roles and responsibilities:  The result will be increased functional leadership capacity and subject matter expert knowledge.
  6. Embrace flexibility and an ability to adapt with change:  Recognize that both formal and informal networks will always result – acknowledge this and integrate in a networked organizational structure.
  7. Provide for employee career development:  The intent is not to organize around individuals.  However, the recruitment and retention challenge must be recognized, and opportunities for career development and professional growth must be provided to all.

So, here are seven basic tenets – should there be eight, nine, or ten?  More?  I’m interested in your feedback; would you remove or modify any of these?  Would you like to add others?  Let us know in the comments.


note: this post originally appeared on the Delta Blog, 28 September 2010

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