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Sustaining the performance improvement benefits of organization design

Part of the job of consultants is to leave an organization in better shape than they found it. This isn’t exactly a ground-breaking statement, but it’s an important jumping off point for discussing how to sustain the performance improvements of optimizing organization design. Recently, there have been a number of instances where we’ve been brought in by a client that had recently conducted a ‘restructuring’, and were now looking for a more evidence-based approach to improving organization design and performance. Sometimes they were looking to backtrack on the work they’d previously done (often a very limited ‘spans and layers’ cost cutting initiative); at other times they were looking to further enhance it.  Either way, they believed that what they had previously done didn’t provide sustainable benefits. Our research and executive experience has shown that optimizing organization design can lead to improved employee satisfaction, customer satisfaction and financial performance. So, how can organizations achieve and sustain these improvements over the long-term?

Begin with research-based organization design principles.

We believe that there are some research-based organization design principles that are foundational to improving organization design and performance in a sustainable way.  These principles can range from having the optimal number of strata or layers (there is a research-based approach to determine this) to ensuring that all employees are achieving outcomes that are commensurate with the level of their positions and salaries (our research shows that many are working at too low a level, and important, more complex work is not getting done). Since organizations go through ongoing change, working with these principles leads to both robust initial improvements, and the flexibility of being able to change the design on an as-required basis; all while maintaining a strong and consistent framework.

Lead a transformation; not just a project.

Organization design isn’t about moving boxes on a piece of paper – it is about transforming the way organizations work. In order to transform the way organizations work, people doing the work have to drive the change. So how can organizations make this happen? It starts with training and qualifying an internal team. This internal team can be comprised of some combination of HR professionals, line managers and high potential individuals. The team is accountable for providing managers with the knowledge, skills and tools necessary to transform the way their teams work. These managers then learn by going through a cascading iterative process that includes education, real work (such as position alignment of their teams), and feedback. We highly encourage organizations to work with external consultants (preferably us!) to benefit from expertise, methodologies, knowledge, tools, etc., throughout the transformation, but ultimately the work needs to be driven internally. This ensures the necessary internal resources are in place to maintain the organization design integrity.

Hardwire systems and processes.

Organization design should be consistently reinforced. Organizations should look to hardwire their systems based on the research-based organization design principles. This could include things such as aligning compensation with levels of work, integrating people matching principles with talent matching processes, or developing managerial training and development programs that are in line with new managerial accountabilities and authorities. Other opportunities include keeping this on executive agendas and targeting continuous annual improvements. The further organizations ingrain the organization design principles into their systems and processes, the more likely they will be able to sustain the benefits of optimizing organization design over the long term.

Should you, or any of your colleagues, be interested in discussing how our approach to Optimizing Organization Design© can help your organization achieve sustainable improvements, please contact us through our website, or give us a call at (416) 236 – 3044.

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