Organize the Organization

Winnipeg Free Press, August 11, 2012 | Go to article overview
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Organize the Organization


As technology, market conditions and other factors evolve, it makes good business sense to redesign a company's structure

Have you ever experienced a time when you wondered why things weren't working in your organization? Were you being confronted with miscommunication, duplicate job duties, poor workflow, inefficient customer service and sometimes even different departments contradicting or conflicting with each other? Did you find that after some sort of a review, you were still puzzled by the lack of answers?

Then, you might be surprised to learn the answer to your questions might lie with how your organization is structured -- you know, those little boxes that tell people to whom they report, where their job lies within the structure, and how co-ordination and control occurs. That's right, organization structure affects efficiency and effectiveness to such an extent that it can make or break your financial success.

Yet, believe it or not, many organizations fail to consider changing their organization structure even in times of substantial information technology change, the addition or deletion of products/services or when the organization enters new markets and/or confronts new competitors. However, all of these changes serve to shift the formulas for success and therefore organization redesign is a must.

Redesigning an organization typically requires a good deal of thought, both from a "rear-view mirror" perspective as well as from a future viewpoint. This isn't something a leader should do alone, but rather involve employees who are knowledgeable about the business, are creative and innovative and are committed to your success.

From the rear-view mirror perspective, examine how your organization is structured and identify the strengths and weaknesses of this structure. Review and determine if your structure is effectively serving the needs of your customers. Determine whether your business processes are helped or hindered by the structure. Confirm the structural strengths and weaknesses and then draw up several alternatives for review. Examine each of these alternatives from the following points of view:

1. Mission, goals and success factors -- Have your mission and goals changed and if so, how will an alternative organizational design support them?

2. Business processes -- Carefully examine the current business processes and the level of employees that need to be involved. What about business processes? Could a new design offer an opportunity to change business processes to make them more effective? Could some processes be combined and streamlined to save time and resources?

3. Designing individual jobs -- Jobs are defined by scope and control. Scope refers to how many different tasks are included in the job and if it's too broad, then the employee will be hopping from one task to another. If it is too narrow, boredom might set in. Control over work is important, as it plays a significant role in creating personal accountability.

4. Dividing up the work units -- How tasks and responsibilities are clustered into work units such as departments, sections or divisions is also an important consideration. Pay attention to co-ordinating activities, speed of work completion, the nature of supervision required and costs. Examine the pros and cons of your preferred alternative structure. Will the benefits outweigh the challenge of change?

5. Supervisory/management structure -- Every organization has a chain of command that will have an impact on cost, decision making and communication. Hierarchies typically include direct supervisors, managers who plan and provide oversight of resources and a senior level of management responsible for final decisions and resource allocations.

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