What has our research in 40 Australian organisations shown?

Challenges with Organisational Design in Australian Organisations

Research Findings By Dr Beatrice Hofmeyr

To find a way to design more effective organisations Dr Hofmeyr interviewed 40 Australian organisations of various sectors, industries and sizes.

The people interviewed are experts in the fields of strategy, transformation and organisational design. They have experience over many years in leading and supporting significant organisational restructures, and share a passion for effective organisational design.

What did these 40 experts say the challenges are?

We’re doing more re-structures than ever before

  • Restructuring is necessary far more frequently than a decade ago, as a result of rapid changes in customer expectations, technology and the competitive landscape.
  • The vast majority of organisational restructures have become “business as usual”. So what we see on the surface, is a continual cycle of tweaks to business rather than “big bang” re-designs.
  • However, there are many cases where organisations are needing to rethink restructures because they haven’t delivered the expected results.

It doesn’t seem to be getting easier or less risky

  • There is plenty of evidence that poor design, badly implemented, leads to confusion, frustration and a loss of productivity.
  • Re-structuring remains difficult and stressful and is generally a negative experience for individuals at all levels of an organisation.
  • Re-structuring is risky with no guarantees that performance or staff engagement will actually improve as a result.
  • “Big bang” redesign is seen as rolling the dice – necessary for big wins but usually resulting in more misses than hits.

It’s getting more complex to get the design right

  • There is little or no data analysis available to managers to make evidence-based organisational design decisions.
  • Years of delayering and flattening of organisations means managers have larger and more complex teams, making organisational design decisions more difficult than ever before.
  • Roles have become progressively more specialised — making it challenging for managers to be across the detail of each specific report’s contribution to the organisation. Intuitively, managers know they need to involve staff in organisational design in order to avoid strategic errors and to successfully unlock specialist knowledge.

What do Australian organisations need?

What do executives say they need?

  • An intuitive, uncomplicated model for organisational design that provides a common reference point and language in the business.
  • A way to articulate organisational design priorities to ensure business-as-usual changes align to overall strategy execution.
  • An early warning system to indicate when the organisational design needs review so that tweaks can be made quickly and effectively.
  • Confidence that managers are equipped to make effective organisational design decisions on an ongoing basis without their direct involvement.

What do managers say they need?

  • A straightforward method for going about organisational design in an effective way.
  • An early warning system to flag issues as they arise, so that a solution can be found before problems escalate.
  • A toolbox enabling them to quickly analyse issues with the organisational design, and then respond rapidly with with effective operational solutions.
  • To make organisational restructure less stressful for staff. They want to do this by providing a clear roadmap, so that all staff know what to expect and feel involved in the remodelling from early on.

What do Human Resources, Transformation, Change Management, and Strategy say they need?

  • An intuitive and uncomplicated model for organisational design that provides a common reference point and language across the business.
  • A robust method of implementation with practical tools they can deliver to executives and managers.
  • An early warning system allowing for a rapid response to issues incrementally, rather than being forced into a “big bang” response further down the track.

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