Five Decisions: The Simple Way To A Better Organisational Design

Number Plate

Lots of organisational design ideas out there.  The urge to play with levers has never been stronger, CEOs are answering surveys saying ‘organisational design is the most important thing’, and the last decade has even seen the sallow colour of Teal become some sort of top o’ the hill aspiration.

Which is just strange.

So let’s make sense of it and make it simple (remembering that simple and easy are not the same….).  Whichever way we do it, we need to organise ourselves so we can:

  1. Decide what to do right now, in the present conditions, looking at actual reality….so the customers being served get what they were promised.
  2. Decide any changes that need to be made to the tools, support, technology configurations, skills, guidelines so the above decisions are easier and better and don’t cost us the earth.
  3. Decide what changes to the way the whole network is put together will let us do things better now, or move to doing those new things we decided.  By network we mean suppliers, different teams, different technologies, support areas – all the things that combine to create what the customers get.
  4. Decide what different futures to invest significant time and resources into so we can continue to be viable, valuable and provide gainful employment.  Note: these decisions are best made with information gained from experiments or pilots…hence the needed innovation movement.
  5. Decide the fundamental value or purpose for the wider community behind all of this and how we will be organised so we can stay connected and see that purpose actually happen.

As you read through these five decisions, you’ll see each decision is supported by the next one.  And that support includes setting the requirements or the ‘container’ for the previous decision, sort of like saying ‘if we get this done, then we’ll continue to be valuable.  If we don’t….we might all be in strife.’

If you’re in a big organisation, this is why you have hierarchy…not to restrict, but to enable.  Just like a shopping centre creates the ‘container’ for the shops.  It enables their success.  And the shopping centre is in a community. That’s a hierarchy too.

You might wish to do away with the notion of hierarchy completely.  Just be aware that people naturally gravitate toward decisions of a certain nature as that’s where they’ll feel they’ll be most useful.  And they will also go to whoever can add value to their own decisions when they hit a curly one, which will often be someone who makes good decisions of the next type.

In other words, hierarchy is already there, and will emerge naturally.  Of course, this all assumes a lack of ego and urge to exercise power….which isn’t exactly a realistic assumption.  So  you’re going to need something in place about how things work to keep things integrated.   Road rules.

And what’s a straightforward way to do that?  Create an enabling hierarchy by using the five types of decision above and make sure those charged with making those decisions are clear and competent in making them.  Also require a basic level of politeness and openness to others as an entry ticket to working there…and you’re onto something.

Something that is not fashionable right now.

Except for the fact that it works.


Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

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