>Reorganization Best Practices

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Sometimes a leader has to consider and implement a reorganization (“reorg”) as this can benefit a organization.

Organizations are not a static environment, but rather are dynamic systems. To survive, organizations must adapt to changes in the external environment and from changing forces within, by reorganizing in ways that improve the organization’s ability to perform.

Harvard Business Review, June 2010, has a couple of important articles on this topic (the articles are actually in reverse order in the issue):

1) “Change For Change’s Sake” by Vermeulen, Puranam, and Gulati

2) “The Decision-Driven Organization” by Blenko, Mankins, and Rogers

In the first article, the authors assert that “even successful corporations have to shake things up to stay ahead of the competition.”

  • Sometimes, this can be driven by changes in the competitive landscape necessitating that we adapt to meet these head on.
  • At other times, it is because of internal organization dysfunctions such as where: routines are stifling innovation, silos are hampering collaboration, and resources have become entrenched with the powerful few—these will hamper performance and potentially destroy the organization if not disrupted.

In the second article, the authors recommend that reorganizations should focus on better decision-making, i.e. on structures that “improves the organization’s ability to make and execute key decisions better and faster than competitors.”

  • Reorgs are seen as necessary for creating the right structure to perform: “Like Generals, they [CEO’s] see their job as putting the right collection of troops in the right place…Nearly half of all CEOs launch a reorg during their first two years on the job.”
  • Results of reorgs are generally poor: According to a Bain and Company study of 57 reorganizations, “fewer than one-third produced any meaningful improvement in performance. Most had no affect, and some actually destroyed value.”
  • Start with a “decision audit”: “Instead of beginning a reorg with an analysis of Strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats [SWOT], structural changes need to start with what we call a decision audit. The goals of the audit are to understand the set of decisions that are critical to the success of your company’s strategy and to determine the organizational level at which those decision should be made and executed to create the most value.”
  • Align organizational elements to optimize decision-making: Organize assets, capabilities, and structures to “make the essential decisions and get those decisions right more often than not.” Similarly, align “incentives, information flows, and processes with those related to decision-making.”
  • Avoid conducting reorgs that degenerate into turf battles and horse-trading: “Powerful managers grad decision rights they shouldn’t really own while weak ones surrender rights they really should own. [Further,] people end up with responsibilities hat are defined too broadly or too narrowly, given the decision they need to make…without a focus on decisions, these power struggles too often lead too creeping complexity in an organization’s infrastructure.”

In my opinion, reorganizations are likely to be most successful when they have specific goals such as adapting to changes, creating new opportunities, closing gaps, and fixing misalignments. Simply “shaking things up” is not enough reason.

Secondly, aligning the organization around execution is as important as better planning/decision-making. Therefore, we should restructure around two areas—strategy (i.e. planning and decision-making) and operations. For example, in Information Technology, we could restructure and align the organization to improve:

1) Strategy formulation: This involves reorganizing to improve architecture and planning, investment decision-making, project management oversight, customer relationship management, and performance measurement. (Reference: The CIO Support Services Framework)

2) Operational execution: This involves reorganizing to improve IT execution of network and operations, systems lifecycle, information management, and information assurance.

Thirdly, success depends on implementing the reorg with people, funding, and other tangible changes that will help the reorg to meet its goals. This advances it from “redrawing the map” to giving it “the legs” to work on the ground, and is the most exciting stage in seeing the vision be fulfilled.

By reorganizing with specific goals, focusing on better decision-making and execution, and on fully implementing the reorganization with enabling structural and process changes, executives can broadly and deeply impact the performance of the organization for the better.

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