Stop beating the dead horse of reorganizations and process clarity

In a recent post, I suggested that many organizational regulatory mechanisms that are in place to standardize organizational life may never work well anymore, because of a paradigm shift in what way organizations work.

In this post, I will spell out 3 doomed  mechanisms.

1) Enhancing Employee Engagement

The labour force appears to clearly understand that engagement is too often a manipulation which means” “bust your ass and do whatever it takes to help the company succeed”, even though management will and does fire staff without blinking an eyelid to make results look better in the short run.

Enhancing employee engagement as presently understood is  futile effort; there is a need to move beyond engagement sloganeering to address the need for a new contract between management and labour.

2) Frequent changes in structure

Management often relies on reorg after reorg as a medicine for nearly all organizational ailments. Changes of structure do not solve problems of trust, lack of transparency nor do they compensate for incompetence.

Managers use this medicine and board members “put up” with these reorganizations because it is “doing”, and buys time. Yes, what I am saying is that the motive for reorgs is often political.

OD consultants over 40 know (and all staff) know that these frequent reorganizations take place in order to avoid change.

3) Obsessive Clarification of the process

Process needs some clarity but organizational reality is very, very complex and one cannot define away complexity via process. In extreme global complexity, organizations need to develop appropriate staffing, team work, and cooperation instead of obsessing about process quality. 

In the dying OD profession, those of us who do still work should not spend too much time to make outdated mechanisms work.

OD should focus on implementing change and not reorganizations, rebuilding the social contract between management and labour, and building teamwork and trust.

Clients which smell the coffee desist from beating the dead horse of more reorgs and overdosing on process clarity. And those who don’t use change managers and OD consultants the wrong way.

Follow me @AllonShevat


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13 thoughts on “Stop beating the dead horse of reorganizations and process clarity

  1. Absolutely, Allon. But when you’re desperate for work, sometimes you have to bend to what the check writers want while trying to move them in the direction of what they actually need…

  2. Robin’s response to your post, Allon, and the very core of your post have one thing in common: People get up in the morning and head off for work where they have their titles, their responsibilities, their job descriptions, technologies, procedures, policies bolstered by years of education, and experience. They enter that world with the illusion of control only to encounter uncertainty for which no OD answer, no simple solution can fully eliminate. Despite appearances of clarity, purpose, direction, stability, organizations and ourselves as agents who serve them live in uncertainty. Much of our role is to be non deciding and non colonizing guides.

  3. Allon, I am an OCM and Process Consultant. I cannot argue with your thesis at all. I pretty much agree with that. But I am tempted to comment a bit about #3 which overlaps #2 and then #1 respectively.

    For an organization to have operational excellence (stuff works and it works well and the people enjoy it) it MUST have intelligent alignment between three elements: 1) People/Org 2) Process, 3) Technology. That is the default order in which these are spoken, but not necessarily the order in which I think they should be addressed.

    IMHO it is best to start with 2) Process. Define the best option. Then 3) implement technology to facilitate that process, and 3) staff/organize to execute it. And yes, of course, this assumes that the C-level is genuine in it’s desire to have operational excellence, if not, no amount of salve will fix it.

  4. I like your idea of a new “social contract between management and labour”. And while you are at it may be redefining what is work !!? Many seem to buy the illusion of a “temporary” weak labor market (hence the speed of the revolving door) but numbers don’t add-up. And the so-called knowledge workers (the future of a (re)educated work force described by politicians) are going to be replaced faster by technology. So much for trust and employee engagement!

  5. After a hostile takeover, the EX-CO of the company I am consulting with insistently tried to “implement a new culture”. What they really meant was “how do we homogenize the culture of the company we took over into ours”. Its latest strategy is referred to as “spill and fill”, which consists of canceling all positions and interviewing existing employees to ensure only “culture-friendly” natives are granted a future with the “new” company. Unfortunately, the main supplier of OD services has successfully embarked the executive group into a venture of process clarification. When asked about what I thought about it, I pointed out that they were currently experiencing a case of an Executive Management suffering from feeling overburdened and pressured, a group of native employees suffering from feeling oppressed and a middle management that is scared shitless. “They are no OD remedies for this, I pointed out.” What there is, is a need for you as the executive leadership to answer the following:” What will constitute success from a financial and human perspective once we will have led the change?” I can help you through this reflexion, if you want.

  6. I agree with most of what you say; working on the points of your blog in reverse:
    – OD, or any part of business for that matter, is so complex, and much of it is below the water line; there cannot be a best practices, for what works in one situation will not work in another, for one company, not in another, for one person but not for another
    – organizational changes are often taken because one can figure out how to fix the problem; it is a last ditch effort and a ‘roll of the dice’; it is not an act of a leader, for, as you state, a way to buy time
    – employee engagement is essential for a business, or more importantly, for people to thrive; it is an imperative. If you are implying that the new contract is to provide an environment that promotes engagement and we must focus on that, I will agree. But doing so must be innate, doing things for others as part of our nature, not for what we can get out of it; if we do this, things will work out fine for all.

  7. Yes, Yes and Yes! It is encouraging, reassuring and refreshing to hear the same song I’ve been singing, and in straight-forward speak. Kudos. In my tenure within my organization, I’ve bore witness to numerous ‘reorgs’ that were just shifting the same pieces around the game board without making a better play to claim victory. I’ve also seen an ‘initiative’ (another popular word) to ‘eliminate the number of layers between executives and clients. It was ineffective in the immediate (turf-wars, lack of follow-through, and coddling) as well as temporary (we cycled back into hiring MORE executives with fewer doers. Time for radical change that requires knocking down the Lincoln Logs of the current culture and rebuilding for a REAL new organization tomorrow.

  8. The point about reorganizations reminds me of a classic fable, when a donkey, a bear, and a couple fo other animals picked up musical instruments to play a “quartet”. Then when it didn’t quite work the first time, they kept changing places, hoping it would. Surprise, surprise, it didn’t!..

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