- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Organisational culture shaping. Counterinsurgency field manual (4 of 5): Structural changes hardly solve behavioural problems. It’s a trap.

Structural answers to organizational problems are very unlikely to succeed.

Division A people don’t collaborate with Division B people, so we create a new division C (which is A+B) and put everybody under the same roof. You will collaborate now! Or else!  But A people still don’t talk to B people. We have given a structural answer (a new division) to a behavioural problem – lack of collaboration. Bad idea.

Reorganizing is often a management need, not an organization need. It also a default management activity, highly visible, so a sign that management ‘is doing something about it’.

After crisis of some sot it is quite common to ‘learn from it’ and ‘solve for the future’ by ‘reviewing’ or changing the structure. It is often unclear whether ‘the structure’ had anything to do with the crisis or the problem in the first place.

But if leadership has run out of other ideas, a reorganization is always handy and a possibility. Common issues of trust, communications, collaboration, accountability, etc, are hardly solvable by structural responses. People will carry those issues with them to the new homes. Yet, this is well known but we keep doing it.

This ‘default answer’ is still very prominent in the organization.

Before ‘reorganizing’ to solve a problem, a proper analysis of the communication flow and knowledge flow should take place. We have tools for that. It’s called Social Network Analysis (SNA) which could reveal for example that a particular reorganization is not needed because the communication flow is adequate. However, perhaps. There are other cases where trust is poor, or knowledge transfer is blocked, and these are the real issues to tackle. It’s only after an SNA that the logic of reshuffling homes can be tested. We use Org Mapper [1] to do that.

In 2018 there is no room for automatic pilot ‘we will reorganize you’ as a solution to a behavioural problem. It’s lazy management.

Another thing that SNA could give you is a real sense of the magnitude of the problem.  Entire divisional reorganizations have taken place because a couple do key individuals are the problem, not the entire system. How many times I have challenged: do you mean that if you removed John and Mary things would be very different? And how many times it has been acknowledged that in reality this was the case, it all came down to very particular individuals.

Without a handle on the behaviour DNA of the company and the dynamics of flow (influence, knowledge transfer, informal communication, formal communication) a reorganization is truly blind, an act of alfa-male-female reaction, a perhaps popular and populist reaction, but unlikely a solution.

It would be the difference between machine gun approach and keyhole surgery.