One of the most difficult assignments for any HR professional or OD consultant is to work with a manager who finds it necessary, either through personal choice or management edict, to reorganize a department. For many managers, the struggle is not only with the notion of change, but also with finding the right starting place or “comfort zone” that will help achieve the desired outcome. Unfortunately, most managers are unprepared for this specific task and end up trying to tackle the job by starting in several directions at once. This, more often than not, leads to serious time and energy wasters that will likely need to be repeated later in the process.
As a resource to the manager faced with this challenge, your most valuable contribution is to serve as a “process consultant”. Simply stated, your role should be to help focus attention on those procedures that will provide the manager with the opportunity to carefully examine, at the right time and in the right sequence, all the critical aspects associated with reorganization.
Since a coherent “process” is normally not the approach taken in such matters, let me share a simple, yet effective template that you can use in working with your managers.
1. Establish A Vision – This first step is often ignored or not even considered due in large part to the fact that it is often confused with the concept of “mission”. Establishing a vision, however, is critical in that it provides a reason to commit for each member of the department and serves as the foundation for all that is to follow. The vision should be the desired ideal state, memorable and lofty in its direction and inspiring in its tenor. Notable examples include GE’s “We Bring Good Things To Life” and the U.S. Army’s “Be All That You Can Be”.
2. Create A Mission – Sounds rather basic, huh? This step is often thought to be incidental to organizational change when in fact it is essential. The mission sets out the tangible operational boundaries for the department. It notes where the team will and will not play so as to insure proper focus and utilization of key resources (time and people). It should capture overall direction, services to be offered, clients that will be served and how such services are to be delivered. Keep in mind that there should be a clear linkage between the vision that has been established and the mission created relative to the business goals for the larger organization (i.e., division, company).
One way to insure that you have a successful and meaningful mission statement is to share it with management, staff and customers alike and ask for input. Any feedback received will provide clarity and insights that will allow for a more complete and rounded mission statement.
3. Establish Business Goals – As part of the mission statement creation, there should also be the inclusion of business goals. These goals should be directly related to the mission, timeless in nature and relatively broad in scope so as to provide flexibility within a changing environment. Where possible, they should reflect specific and tangible business outcomes that are realistic, meaningful, achievable, measurable and department-encompassing. Normally, 4-5 such goals will suffice. Validation of these goals should be part of the mission sharing process noted in the earlier step.
4. Organizational Structure/Design and Systems – Armed with a vision, mission and set of business goals, the next critical step is to determine the best organizational structure/design (i.e., coordinated array of functions and/or jobs) that will insure that the mission and goals will be consistently achieved. A caution here—avoid the temptation to think of structure/design and people. The topic of staffing should not be part of the process at this juncture and will only serve to distract or misguide any effort. The focus of a structure/design decision should be on key functions required and the relationship of those functions both within and external to the department.
Keep in mind that changing the structure/design may not be needed. Too many managers fall into the trap of thinking that reorganizing, by definition, means that everything must be “shaken-up” in order to prove that change has taken place. The only true gage by which to determine if a new structure/design is needed is, again, related to the achievement of the mission and goals.
On a related matter, the examination of structure/design provides a good opportunity to also examine existing systems and procedures, both internally created and maintained and externally supplied. It could well be that structure/design changes will also impact some or all of the systems currently in place. When speaking about systems, consider both formal (such as computers, telephones, etc.) and informal systems (such as departmental SOP’s, patterns of communication, etc.).
5. Identify Critical Tasks and Skills – Whether the actual structure/design of the organization is changed, it is very likely that the critical tasks that must be performed and the requisite skills required in each job function will need to be changed or amended. One way to view this step is to see it as a combination of task analysis and the identification of competencies and skills. What is essential here is a comprehensive look at (a) what needs to be done [task analysis] and what competencies, skills and associated behaviors are mandatory [competencies, skills and behaviors].
Such an analysis should be undertaken for each and every job within the department, particularly if the job is entirely new or is a major departure from what has been done. It is also suggested that future tasks and related competencies and skills be kept in mind as well. Finally and as mentioned in the previous step, any discussion or thought about people vis-à-vis specific jobs should not be part of this step.
6. Assigning of Staff – Now is the time and place where discussions about individual staff members are appropriate and necessary. The goal in this step is to assess staff capabilities relative to the tasks, competencies and skills of each person and each job (as identified in step 5 above) looking for matches, mismatches and manageable gaps. A critical mindset to maintain throughout this particular exercise is the focus on an objective assessment of the individual relative to respective job tasks, competencies and skills required—–while leaving out the issue of personality. It is here where internal company resources such as performance appraisals, skill profiles, customer feedback, competency models and employee development plans can play a very useful role.
7. Monitor Progress – As with any highly complex system, there needs to be constant and vigilant monitoring to insure that the mission and goals are being met. Customer and management feedback will be two critical indicators and should be encouraged.
The above steps, as noted earlier, are from a process perspective and should help in tackling what can be considered a very daunting assignment. These steps have proven to be reliable points of navigation, but are not meant to suggest that it is the definitive approach. So, here are some other considerations that will help insure success:
- Ongoing, honest communication, from the manager to his/her department, on what is going on, the process and rationale that will be followed and the role each member of the department will be playing as this process moves forward is critical. A good starting point is getting everyone involved in creating the vision, mission statement and business goals. Keeping everyone informed and involved, where practical, will help ease some of the natural anxiety and fear that is quite common to reorganizations.
- Test and obtain validation of the vision, mission statement and business goals with management and customers as soon as possible after the completion of step 3. The tangible benefits include gaining a clearer understanding of management/customer needs and wants while also creating an opportunity to gain much-needed buy-in.
- If there are no functional competencies, skills and related behaviors for the department, this should be the first priority before moving to step 5. Otherwise, there is the risk that any assessment of tasks and employee capabilities will be based on perceptions rather than tangible benchmarks.
- Where needed and when needed, bring in experts. This could include HR representatives with background or experience in reorganizations, internal or external consultants or anyone else that could lend critical and valuable insights, guidance and direction.
- Don’t forget about systems when considering structure. For the most part, they go hand-in-hand and can save a tremendous amount of work and pain downstream.
- In the end, it is the manager that has the responsibility for reorganization. The sooner he/she understands that, the greater the likelihood there will be the sense of urgency vital to success.