Managing your reorganization: it’s an organizational transformation - Not just an organizational diagram

Posted by David Miller


It is important to remember that from your organization’s point of view a new organizational structure might not be as clear cut as you see it.  In fact, in most cases, even the smallest reorganization may be seen by your employees as a major upheaval.  Understanding that your reorganization is in fact an organizational transformation allows you to think about managing it as an organizational change.

A lack of consultation and communication leads to disaster

Too often we have seen executives develop a new organizational structure with little or no consultation, communicate via email, and expect the new organization to take effect immediately. 

If you have ever been on the receiving end of this approach you will know that within 5 minutes half of the organization have identified multiple (real or imagined) flaws and for the next 6-12 months everyone struggles to make it work.

Even a new organizational design which in paper has every chance of success can lead to disaster if the correct change leadership is not in place. 

A lack of consultation, communication, or even the perception that the details don’t matter, leads to disillusionment and resistance within the organization.  Understanding how a reorganization impacts the different people within your organization, and what you can do to help manage the impact, will smooth the transition to the desired new organizational state.

 Don’t expect 100% commitment, but provide the tools and process to support an increase in commitment

Each individual impacted by an organization redesign will react in different ways.  You will have some employees committed, some on the fence and some resistant.  Certainly, all will be spending time and energy speculating and discussing the changes. 

Your job as a leader is not to expect 100% commitment, but with the right change leadership style and approach you can help move the more passive ‘acceptors’ into the engaged ‘committed’ mindset.

 [insert diagram]

Having a majority committed to the change will allow energy spent on discussion focused on ‘how can we make this work’ as opposed to ‘this won’t ever work’. 

 Active engagement in design and implementation leads to commitment and ownership of the new organizational structure

Engaging your employees in the process of developing a new organizational design as early as possible creates buy-in, that sense of ownership, and self-motivation needed for people to work productively in the new organizational structure. 

 There are 4 key processes that you as a leader can use to actively engage your employees in the reorganizational design and implementation:

 Learning: by giving the opportunity for your employees to learn and understand why the reorganization is necessary gives them the time to internally process the need to change.  It allows them to move into a state where they are receptive of the idea of working in a new way.

 Discussions in team meetings about the drivers for change, and ensuring that there is opportunity for two-way discussion about the drivers, the importance to the business, and the impact if nothing is done, is a simple yet effective way to encourage the learning process. 

 This needs to be implemented in a cascade approach; ensure your team leaders have had the chance to have the same discussions with their leaders before asking them to lead discussions themselves.

 Involvement: people are more engaged in a change where they have had the opportunity to be involved.  Provide a structured approach for your teams to input to the organizational design.

 Realistically people will not expect to have 100% control over the new organizational structure.  You will need to determine the extent to which you design the levels of input provided.  It is crucial, however, to make it very clear what input you are looking for, what will happen to this input, and, even more importantly, how you will provide communication back to the broader organization.

 Workshops, brainstorming sessions, and constructive review sessions on suggested new organizational structures are good methods for this process.

 Communication: provide clarity on the goals and vision of your reorganization, provide information throughout the process, not just at the start or the end, and ensure your employees have the opportunity to voice their concerns in a constructive manner. 

Think about different ways to do this: all-hands town halls, information sessions, FAQs, online forums; all provide effective communication channels.  The best solution is often a mix tailored to your organizational culture and geographical spread.

 Rewards: Tailor rewards for active involvement in the design phase as well as implementation.  Consider how individual and team level rewards can be used to encourage the new way of working.

  It is not too late to start engaging, just remember to make the engagement meaningful

 If you have already communicated a new organizational structure it is not too late to engage in the suggested change leadership approach.  Be aware that your employees will see through a token effort.  Make sure your engagement with your teams is genuine and meaningful; be willing to accept suggestions to improve the organizational design.

 Read more about how to actively engage your employees during an organizational transformation in our white paper: How to actively engage your people in organizational change.


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Tags: change management, change leadership, organizational change, transformational change, organizational transformation

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