When it comes to organizational design, CEO’s want the outcome of collaborative, innovative places to work and yet struggle with a desire to control information, prevent unnecessary spin, and protect sacred relationships, especially if it means cutting people. This struggle can create a telling inconsistency in the approach to redesign.

Here is a way to do both:

Design, build and implement three layers of management at a time in a cascade approach.

First though, you must define a set of design principles that will guide each successive wave of the cascade. These are the guidelines that determine how work will be layered, grouped, and related. With that you can develop an initial “high-level” design that is in alignment with the strategy and informed by the top team. This may be where the discovery of how many and what roles may need to be eliminated. And it can be done as confidentially, in as tight a circle as the CEO needs or wants.

Next are the detailed level design and implementation in waves of three layers of management at a time.

The first round of implementation clarifies and implements the top-level design.
The CEO defines the purpose and draft accountabilities of the roles that will report to her/him; let’s call them VP’s. VP’s then work with the CEO to clarify and agree upon their accountabilities. The CEO then defines only the purpose of the roles reporting to those VP roles; let’s call them Directors. VP’s then work with the Directors to define and agree upon the accountabilities of each Director role. A final step involves a group session to agree upon the purpose and accountabilities of all three layers of management.

The second round is the same process, and starts with the VP’s – each doing it with their next two layers down. Each VP defines only the purpose of the roles two levels down; let’s call them Managers. Directors then work with their Managers to define and agree upon the accountabilities of each Manager role. Finally, the purpose and accountabilities of all three layers of this Three-Tier set are reviewed together, refined and agreed upon.

Having done this many times with clients, we find the approach achieves clarity and puts collaboration into the process itself – so the work of the redesign is actually practiced in a desired way of working together, even before the design implementation is complete. That desire for control of information is addressed through a disciplined approach.  It allows for a clear specific process, direct link of accountability from strategy to front line roles, bounds the discussion to roles and accountabilities and involves those who will be accountable for the work in defining it.

It may sound like a lengthy approach, however it is takes the same or less time to do than other approaches with the benefit of deeper commitment earlier in the redesign and new operating model. In our experience, it is also a short cut around the conversations and wasted energy that happens in other approaches despite the best intentions to control or limit those kinds of conversations in the first place.

This approach builds lasting strategic alignment, a defined management culture and productive three-tier management relationships in a fast and nimble way.

Some assumptions are involved:

  • There is a real desire for a productive (not bureaucratic) hierarchy
  • There is a clear understanding and levelling of the work needed to be done at each layer
  • There is a definition of relationships and authorities across reporting lines
  • You have the skilled and available resources to facilitate each group as it cascades and fans out at each layer of management

The biggest assumption is that the CEO truly wants to make a productive change to the organizational design to better deliver on strategy and business plan execution.

That is another story.

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CORE International | Organization Design Consultants