One of the key factors in the success of the implementation of a more globally integrated organization is a clear understanding of the major structural changes involved.
Structure change is not enough of itself to embed this significant change in ways of working, however an unclear structure is definitely something that gets in the way.
Structure is a statement of intent and resource allocation and people pay a lot of attention, in particular, to senior appointments.
At the top of the organization, top managers tend to focus on senior appointments and is usual for an announcement of the change to be accompanied by news of senior moves, departures and new roles.
Whilst this is important, it doesn’t explain to the rest of the organization how they will be affected and how the new organization will be rolled out. The absence of clarity on this can fuel rumours and resistance to the change.
Is usually left these new senior appointments to define the organization structure that reports them.
Normally there is some kind of OD support or HR involvement that ensures some form of consistency across the organization. Though we have worked with one organization of over a 100,000 people where each function was allowed to develop its own organizational structure with little consideration of the interfaces and consistency. It was predictably chaotic.
Unfortunately, the more detailed organizational announcements are often then only communicated within the senior managers’ own area of responsibility.
If these individual announcements are communicated more widely it tends to lead to a plethora of emails with dozens of changes. It’s really difficult for people in the organization to put this together themselves without an overarching picture of the organization.
I appreciate that this can take some time to finalise, however, at some point there needs to be clear articulation of the new structure.
We tend to work with large, generally well run organizations, and is not uncommon for them to tell us that nobody is capable of putting together a full organization chart for the business.
One of our consultants worked so regularly with one global multinational a few years ago that he was rumoured to be one of the few people who knew how the organization structure actually fitted together – people would call him to ask who they should speak to!
In the absence of clear structure people will waste a lot of time seeking out the people they should talk to. They may achieve clarity for their routine contacts but remain vague about the extended organization.
A typical symptom of lack of organizational clarity is where there is a proliferation of stakeholders. It’s not clear who I should involve or who makes a decision, so I involve everybody. This can be extremely time-consuming and lead to lower quality, slower decisions.
It’s a tough job to keep the organization chart of a large organization up to date. At the very least we need to have a reasonably clear organizational rationale of how the business fits together and who does what.
Regular readers will know I am opposed to too much clarity, it sends the wrong message in complex organizations where we need to get much more comfortable with ambiguity. Nevertheless, in order to be successful people need to understand the framework within which they can exercise this freedom.
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