How You Can Refine Your Departmental Structure

By Paul F. Taccini

Often in business, a manager finds himself making do with an organizational structure that isn’t efficient or effective just because it is ‘in place’ and it will be hard to change.  There are several reasons why we may be willing to maintain the status quo.  At the very least, re-organizing will change reporting relationships which will ruffle some feathers.   Individuals may feel underutilized or unappreciated.  There is always the risk of triggering the exodus of a key player.  Additionally, it takes significant management time to properly analyze each staff member and it requires effort to make it work smoothly.  On top of that, it’s not the only thing we have to do.

The Process of Reform

Departmental or company reorganization is a process with some distinct steps.  When possible, re-organizing must involve Human Resources.  They will be a devil’s advocate during the planning and a partner during the restructuring, minimizing negative fallout.  The first step requires that you have a picture of the result you want and a rationale as to why it should be this way.  Next, a careful analysis of each staff member’s capabilities and interests should be undertaken.  Much of this information should reside in human resource files and performance reviews.  Additional information may be obtained during day to day interactions with the individuals themselves as well as other staff members.  Each person must be fitted into the new structure.  Unfortunately, there is a real chance some individuals will be identified as underqualified or even extraneous to the current departmental needs.  For these employees, a reassignment or exit plan must be developed.  With luck, there won’t be many in this category.

After you have established the structure and responsibility for each position, you should develop an implementation plan.  At this point, the senior staff need an overview of your plans if this hasn’t been done previously.  Either immediately before or after announcing the reorganization, there is a need for you or a representative from HR to speak with each involved individual.  If you conduct the meeting, an HR representative should be present to offer guidance and document the process, especially it there is a negative aspect to the change.

Who’s on First?

I am acquainted with a family owned company which was acquired by an equity capital group.  The group recruited a Sr. Vice President to fill an open position in Marketing and Sales. During the interview process, this candidate met with several key direct reports in marketing and sales.  However, when the new SVP arrived, he was shocked to learn that almost everyone was a direct report.  In all there were 15 individuals including a secretary and a sales manager in a remote location.  Needless to say, managing this group without a reorganization would have been like herding cats.  While it took 6 months, the new SVP developed a sense for each of the individuals, Then, along with the head of Human Resources, he revised the department, positioned staff in their new roles, and then announced it formally to the company at large.  The new arrangement has been a success.

The Takeaway

Reorganization is not something to be to take lightly.  It requires a sharp vision, forethought, careful planning, a level of sensitivity and teamwork for success.  It is worth the effort!

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