energizing breakthrough performance

The Sufferings of Flawed Organizational Design

By Ronald A. Gunn, Strategic Futures principal

Imagine that you own a high-performance automobile. The tachometer is “redlining,” reflecting the fact that your engine is working as hard as it can or should, dispensing maximum RPMs. Yet despite your overheated and overworked engine, your ground speed is next to nil, moving at a snail’s pace. You would be dissatisfied. You would rightly conclude that something needs fixing.

Now think about your organizational structure—the configuration of roles, responsibilities, accountability and intentional relationships embedded in your enterprise. What if you saw members of your organizational family working as hard as they could—chronically exhausted at the end of each day’s long hours? Chances are that you already see this pattern. Conceive of your employees as the engine of your enterprise—because they are. If they are working as hard and hot as they can and yet you are still not arriving at your destination as quickly and assuredly as you want, might you conclude that something needs fixing?

Ask yourself: Do we have the right design for moving our enterprise sure-footedly into its prosperous future? Is our structure aligned with our business strategy and systems? Will our structure support the cultivation of competitive advantage for come what may?

If these are familiar symptoms, flawed organizational design may be the correct diagnosis.

Traditional "silo" hierarchies are going the way of the parasol. They are desperately out of breath in many industries. Contorted and constipated organizational models contribute to fizzles, failures, emotional and physical exhaustion, routine frustration, and other sufferings. We are well into the era of networked systems. Networked structures are the next frontier. Swift, cross-functional approaches that place accountability at the lowest possible level of the organization cultivate employee competence, confidence, and job satisfaction. Such designs advance the organization’s agenda, liberating senior-level managers and executives to think and act more strategically. Enhanced design results in removal of dead-ends, gridlock, and "bridge out" scenarios, which cause even the most capable and motivated employees to take dysfunctional detours as they strive towards the destination.

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