Photo: Katarina Chowra

The Trap of Reorganisation

Recently, I met a woman who told me that at her last workplace they reorganised every 6 months. 6 months? I could hardly believe my ears. At the time when I worked at a Swedish telecom company, it was reorganised every year. It meant that 3 months every year was more or less unproductive time, due to the fact that we, employees were worried about the new organisation — will I still be wanted? What will my new roll be? During that time everything slowed down. Before the pace was up again, it was time for a new reorganisation. And so it continued.

Was there any positive outcomes from the reorganisation? Possibly some. Did the outcome justify the loss in production. I doubt it, maybe.

The questions here are — how should a company deal with the fact that the world is changing faster than ever? Will a company end up reorganising every quarter? Every month? Or are there other solutions to reorganisation? (You can read about the exponential increase in 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 obvious 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 become aware of a situation that calls for a decision, do his/her best to make the most beneficial decision for the organisation. 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 to act for the common good for the organisation´s purpose.

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

If you want to get some practical cases on this topic I highly recommend to read 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 foreseen 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 certain position and sticking to it, will be too rigid. Instead there will be a need of flexibility and of an entrepreneurship mindset. You do what have 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 organisation, in all processes. It just reminded me of my first job as a trainee at a manager consultant firm with focus on BPR (Business Process Re-engineering). Focus was on processes, not on people. The purpose of BPR was to find the perfect process to streamline the organisation, in order to maximize the profit. People was seen as machines, as replaceables. It was such diminution of human capacity.

Time has come now to work the other way around, and instead increase the human capacity, increase each employees mindset. Albert Einstein phrased it well: “Problems cannot be solved with the same mind set 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 organisation, empower each employee and let people self organise, incorporate a learning culture, and invest in mindset increasing activities — do we have a solution to the ongoing reorganisations?

Well, I guess only future will tell. But I do believe that it is a way of raising the odds for an organisation to be flexible and cope with the ever changing world. It is a way for organisations to have a form that is particularly built for continuous change without formal reorganisations. Instead, the organisations will reorganise themselves continuously in accordance with the ever changing demands of the market.

What are your thoughts on this subject?

Want more glimpses of a possible future? See all my previous posts here.