Reorganizations: Don’t Just Shake up the Bird Cage

November 24th, 2015   •   no comments   
Reorganizations: Don’t Just Shake up the Bird Cage

Dan McCarthy

I’ve heard some employees call frequent, questionable reorganizations “shaking up the bird cage”. You get a lot of noisy chaos and ruffled feathers flying, and at the end of the say, the same bunch would just be sitting on different perches, albeit a little dizzy from all of the cage rattling. Nothing else seems to change.

That kind of a cynical reaction is often the result of an organizational design process that started and ended with an organization chart. It’s also a result of a lack of communication and change leadership. People don’t understand the rationale, so they fill in the blanks with cynicism and skepticism. Unfortunately, it’s often justified.

I’ve been involved in enough of these – as a manager, outside advisor, and recipient – to have learned a few lessons.

Here are some tips that I hope will help the next time you’re thinking of re-drawing that org chart:

Why Reorganize?

Most managers don’t decide to reorganize on a whim – it just seems that way, usually because of a poor design or lack of communication.

The typical reasons a manager decides it’s time to reorganize are:

1. A key person has left, leaving a void and an opportunity to question the existing structure. Like it or not, management org charts are usually built around individuals, not “positions”. When a key individual departs, the rationale for the position often leaves with them.

2. There are problems (inefficiency, talent mis-matches, overlapping or underlapping roles, or other operational issues). Work is not getting done, and/or it’s not being done well.

3. It’s required in order to seize a new opportunity (new market, product, service, etc…). Your current structure just wasn’t designed to support your new business objectives.

While these are all good reasons, it’s important to consider reorganizing as just one possible alternative. There are often lots of less disruptive ways to achieve the same objectives.

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