How can companies more effectively do organisation design and restructuring?


Andrew Zielinski

Partner and Head of UK&ME

When delivering organisation design workshops, which I do about 15 times per year, the most common question asked, “Why does our company do so much organisational restructuring?”  This question was asked again last week when I was running one of these workshops at a global oil and gas company.

I have worked with many clients who – for whatever reason – find that they do a lot of organisational restructuring. One thing that most of these clients have in common is that, regardless of how often they restructure, they rarely do it the same way twice.

The fundamental question that clients ask is “Is there a better way to run these re-design projects?”

The answer I always give is, “Yes. And done in a deliberate way, you should see lower costs, better outcomes, and a more capable, confident group of people inside the company who will be able to deliver this type of work when you do it next time.”

Typically, the reason for the inconsistent delivery of projects like this is that most companies that do organisation design hire different 3rd parties – consulting firms or independent contractors – to design and deliver each organisation design project.  In my experience, there are some fundamental issues with how companies buy organisation design services, including:

  • There is a limited understanding inside the company of what is being bought;
  • Buyers of organisation design services either do not know what deliverables to expect or don’t know what should be included in the deliverables that they do expect;
  • An incredible amount of knowledge walks out the door at the end of each project. I end most organisation design projects with a better understanding of my client’s organisation than 95% of the people that work there; and
  • Very little knowledge is captured and shared, which means that the cycle will be repeated the next time an organisation design project needs to be done.

In order to make things better, the first thing I advise clients to do is to take control of the process.

Organisation design is a skill that can only be developed by doing – and therefore can only be developed over time (and some components of it will always require some support from outside the company). A methodology for delivering organisation design projects can be developed fairly quickly, and does not require years of experience.  There are more organisation design methodologies than I care to count – many academics and organisational theorists have developed them, almost every management consulting firm has a proprietary methodology, and you can find an unlimited number of independently developed models if you do a search for “organisation design methodology”.  Fundamentally, though, they are all pretty similar – the cycle you will go through is: Analyse, Design, Build, Implement – and most can be applied to the vast majority of organisation design or restructuring projects. My advice: pick one methodology (or develop one in house, or even pick one consulting firm to partner with), and require that anyone at your company who does organisation design or restructuring use it (including 3rd parties).

While this is neither simple nor straightforward – in order to take control of the process, there do need to be some practitioner-level organisation design bods in a company and at least pockets of people who have that the foundation capability to do organisation design projects.

Most companies standardise process so why not standardise the approach you take to reorganising (no matter how big or small), which is the most disruptive thing you can do to your business?

An important question that clients typically do not ask me, which I’ve chosen as the subject for my next blog, is “Will restructuring my organisation help me address the business issue I’m trying to resolve?”

Click here to see a video of me sharing some tips on organisation design and restructuring.