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The Trap Of Reorganisation

This post was originally posted on Linkedin, 3 of Nov 2015. Revised for typos.

Recently, I met a woman who told me that at her last workplace, they reorganize every six months. Six months? I could hardly believe my ears. At the time when I worked at a Swedish telecom company, we had reorganization every year. It meant that three months every year was more or less unproductive time, since we, employees, were worried about the outcome. Will I still be wanted? What will my new role be? During the time of reorganization, everything slowed down. Just when the pace was up again, it was time for a new reorganization. And so it continued.

Were there any positive outcomes from reorganizations? Possibly some. Did the result justify the loss in production? I doubt it. 

The questions here are— how should a company deal with the fact that the world is changing faster than ever? Will companies end up reorganizing every quarter? Every month? Or are there any other solutions to reorganization? (You can read about the exponential increase of change in this post: The Path to the New Business Model). 

I do not have the answer to these questions, only some hypotheses. 

First and foremost, it is quite evident that if you have a hierarchical structure, as most traditional and established companies do, it takes time to make a decision. It takes time to act. Sooner or later, as the speed of change increases, you will simply not have that time.

It goes without saying that the fastest way to make a decision is to make it where the urge for the decision arises. With this, I mean that the person who becomes aware of a situation that calls for a decision, do his/her best to make the most beneficial decision for the organization. It could mean that the person needs to consult colleagues or contact the most suitable person for that specific decision. Everyone in the team will be accountable for doing its best for the common good for the organization’s purpose.

 To make this work, it will be inevitable that all team members are aware of the overall purpose of its organization, of the purpose of its team and as well as of the organization’s values. This is so important. This gives every person the possibility to act autonomously and make decisions in the right direction. It sets the foundation for self-organized teams.

If you want to get some practical cases on this topic, I highly recommend reading the book Reinventing Organizations by Frederic Laloux. It is such an inspiring read. 

Furthermore, as the world keeps increasing the speed of change, it will become more difficult to foresee the demand, the tasks you have to perform, or even the skills you will need.

Learning will be at the very base of your culture. The idea of having a specific position and sticking to it will be too rigid. Instead, there will be a need for flexibility and an entrepreneurship mindset. You do what has to be done (and as an entrepreneur, you do it because you want to do it because you know that it will bring you closer to your purpose).

Another aspect is that we have put big faith in the very structure of an organization, in all processes. It just reminded me of my first job as a trainee at a management consulting firm with a focus on BPR (Business Process Re-engineering). The focus was on processes, not on people. The purpose of BPR was to find the perfect process to streamline the organization, to maximize the profit. People were seen as machines, as replaceable. It was such a diminution of human capacity.

Time has come now to work the other way around, and instead, increase the human capacity, expand each employee’s mindset. Albert Einstein phrased it well: “Problems cannot be solved with the same mindset that created them.” We will have to continually evolve our mindset to be able to cope with the increased speed of change (AKA speed of new problems :)). 

So if we switch to a purpose-driven organization, empower each employee and let people self organize, incorporate a learning culture, and invest in mindset increasing activities — do we have a solution to the ongoing reorganizations? 

Well, I guess only the future will tell. But I do believe that it is a way of raising the odds for an organization to be flexible, resilient, and cope with the ever-changing world. Without formal reorganizations, organizations will have a structure fit for continuous change. The organizations will reorganize themselves continuously following the ever-changing demands of the market. 

  • What are your thoughts on this subject?