When addressing a process of organization design or re-design, a crucial element to consider is productivity. The highest level of productivity is the desired result from any organizational structure, so the design should be planned and implemented around this goal.
Most organizations will experience a chaotic moment at any given business stage. In fact, as Dr. Roger K. Allen of The Center for Organizational Design, states that “a complete absence of chaos would mean that an organization could not respond to the changing demands, a sure prescription for stagnation and death.”
Dr. Allen presents a three-stage model of organizational growth and development which can take any organization from chaos to stability to high performance.
The stages in Dr. Allen’s model are illustrated and described as follows:
Stage III: High Performance (Outstanding, sustainable results)
- Clear statement of mission that creates sense of esprit de corp.
- Well defined values which result in distinctive culture
- Respect for people that is a deeply ingrained part of culture
- Good communication and information sharing systems
- High involvement and empowerment of people
- Design (work flow, structure, systems) that supports mission and values
Stage II: Stability (Back to the Basics)
- Clarity of goals and direction
- Consistency in priorities
- Well-defined policies and procedures (technical and personnel)
- Agreement on roles and responsibilities
- Basic management processes rewarded and practiced (goal-setting, performance reviews, etc.)
Stage I: Chaos (Fire-Fighting Mentality)
- Crisis/short-term focus
- Lack of clear direction and goals
- Shifting priorities
- Unclear policies and procedures
- “Us” vs. “them” attitude
- Blame and lack of ownership
- Alienated work force
Dr. Allen then outlines some initiatives that can guide leaders to step ahead on the stage and move from chaos to high performance.
To create stability, the organization must get “back to the basics of good, sound management practices.” Managers will need to get back to the fundamentals of the best management practices and create structure and order.
According to Dr. Allen there are two paths for structure and order:
- One is harmful in the long run, based on “control” understood as directing and telling. This represents a short-term vision and just responds to the symptoms not the root problem.
- The second is more productive and leads to higher stability, based on “clarity”, understood as clarity of direction, goals, and priorities. This path will lead to structure and order as the foundations of the organization.
To move from stability to high performance, management must define an inspiring ideology based on the deepest beliefs and values of the organization leaders. Having this ideology and implementing it will establish the appropriate attitude and habits among the people in the company by naturally setting boundaries that will guide everyone’s decisions and actions.
When an ideology is fully implemented and rooted in the company, it translates into a way of life which has to be reinforced by the infrastructure of the organization. All business processes, policies, and procedures, have to be aligned with the ideology. Dr. Allen explains that it is through such alignment that a dramatic improvement in quality, cycle time, productivity, and employee commitment, are achieved.
Other strategies organizations can implement to achieve high productivity are:
- Decision making and problem solving can be pushed to low levels
- Problems can be solved when and where they occur
- Jobs must be enriched so people have authority, training, and support to complete full tasks autonomously
- Boundaries must be specific
- Tasks and responsibilities must be identified
- Leadership roles within teams must be designated
- A time-line for taking on new roles must be developed
- Training and resources for professional development must be provided
- Motivation of organization members must change from mere compliance to commitment and a genuine desire to contribute
Certainly there is no magic formula to achieve high performance, but rather hard work, planning and implementation. To lay a foundation of organizational stability and eventually move to high performance, companies might as well start by providing better customer service and improving the quality of their products and services. Those first steps will be a good starting point in a long road.