Alan's corner: How to make organisational change effective
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Alan’s corner: How to make organisational change effective

Alan’s corner: How to make organisational change effective

Market dynamics can dictate the need for a restructure of your organisational chart

American Express started out delivering mail across the US on horseback and then evolved over the years. Remember American Express traveller’s cheques?

With travel at its core, it has reinvented itself to become one of the top charge-card companies in the world today. Market dynamics can dictate the need for a restructure of your organisation chart. Changes to customer habits, new legislation, supply chain challenges and technological advances can all combine to force the need for change. When the market dictates it, survival and growth may well depend on your ability to adapt and possibly reinvent your organisation structure.

Change like this is not easy and blurred lines can often emerge in terms of roles and responsibilities. Organisational change like this is more effective when it is planned, taking due consideration for the impact of the changes across the board.

Steps to take when restructuring

1. Discover 
Discovery is about taking time to get a fresh objective look at the business and better understand the business model, culture, the current structure, reporting lines and job roles. In a change programme we did recently with Triangle Computer Services, we conducted a number of one-to-one interviews with team members – to get their views on what is working and where there might be confusion or overlap.

2. Design
The answer to ‘which comes first, the chicken or the egg?’ is easy when deciding on structure. Structure (who does what and who reports to who) is only relevant when the vision and the strategy for the business is carved out. Taking time out with the senior management team in Triangle, we started by crafting a new north star for the business. Once that was agreed, we identified the gap between the current structure and the ideal one required to deliver the new strategy. We shaped an organisation chart that focused not on names but on roles and reporting lines at first. The appropriate individual’s names were then added once the new structure was finalised. It’s essential to do it this way rather than be influenced by personalities and past roles. Just because someone has had a particular role for years, should not suggest that with a refreshed business model, they automatically continue in that role.

3. Deliver
The new structure then needs to come to life. This starts with communicating it carefully and with great empathy to your people and customers. This brings great clarity to an organisation as individuals get comfort from knowing who they report to and the path for succession.

4. Develop
A new structure takes time to develop. Once the organisation structure is defined, it’s important to re-write the job descriptions for each role. Individuals need to know exactly what is expected of them, what competencies are required to fulfil the role and what the measures of success are.

The last word
I have been privileged to support many organisations over the years to refresh their strategy, culture and structure. It’s an inclusive process that takes due consideration of all key stakeholders. It starts with understanding the market and competitive context for the change. But it doesn’t stop there. When a business is dependent on people being motivated and skilled, there is more to do. Communications is a key enabler of successful change.

Alan O’Neill is a change consultant and speaker

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