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Form follows function. What this simple statement means for the change of organisational structures. A view of how to deal with the wish to create and implement new organisation structures, the differentiation to an organisational form and its meaning for the adaptability of an organisation.

It is our firm dictate that we do not directly change organisational structures. But does this mean that dealing with our clients wish to change organisational structures is out of bounds? A look on why we pronounced our dictate does give direction. Just to name a few:

  1. changing organisational structures leads to disruption.

    we do not want to disrupt business, break processes. Changing organisational structure should never be a purpose. It should also not be a means to achieve a purpose. The need to change or rather adapt an organisational structure should emerge as the result of following a purpose and adapting to best fulfill it.

  2. it is meant to solve problems without a clear understanding of the complexities of the systems.

    no one can really unravel the entirety of complexities of the internal and external environment, the dependencies and interconnectivity of corporate eco-systems. To try to break them down into parts and to believe we can deal with them that way is extremely dangerous. In the same way as knowing what the elephants tusk looks like does not give us a clue regarding its ears we should not let ourselves believe that by analysing one part of the company we will know the rest. The solutions implemented coming from incomplete understanding usually result in unwanted effects.

  3. it leads to an inward view and activity, binding valuable resources.

    due to the complexities of the system a lot of energy and resources are spent in workshops, process description exercises, analysis, meetings and more. This energy is diverted from fulfilling the actual purpose of the organisation. This is but one negative effect. The worst is that the attitude of the company changes away from its original purpose to be substituted by self-possession.

  4. it requires energy and exerts pressure which is naturally resisted by the system.

    any system subjected to pressure will resist it equally. Worse, in systems reactions are not direct or linear. They can result in unwanted results in unexpected areas. To counter these effects, if visible, new solutions will have to be found and implemented often resulting in a vicious cycle of action and reaction. In case the effects are not immediately visible they can even lead to much higher levels of disruption. Again, we see a shift of energy to inward activities.

  5. it is usually planned and implemented by members of the organisation that have a very personal interest in the change of the structure.

    in a positive world the motivation to change the organisational structure arises out of a leadership desire to better fulfil the purpose of the organisation. In this case the shift to a different approach to changing organisational structures will not be too difficult and most probably found by leadership itself. It is a sad situation though, that often, the motivation of management to implement change arises out of very selfish purposes. These are veiled in efficiency, stake holder value, quality, customer satisfaction, digital transformation… mantras but are meant to either strengthen their position, get rid of unwanted rivals, reduce workforce, make a show toward share holder or other similar motives.

The conditions why we would consider tackling the task of changing organisational structure as well as how we would go about doing so are now easy to extrapolate. Broadly said we start with understanding the motivation of the leadership, charting the eco-system of the company, uncovering the most company-purpose related processes and corresponding roles, making sure we cover the purpose related expectations from an outside-in perspective. With this done the most fitting form of the organisation begins to emerge. This is done in a few workshops. What we aim to create is a strong purpose driven vision of the future organisational form.

Following this path, it is relatively easy to define the gap from where the company is currently positioned to the vision it created. From thinking in structures to thinking in living organisations. We can define what needs to be done to fill the gaps. Not changing the organisational structure but the environment to fulfil the purpose and move toward fulfilling it.

When this path is taken up adaptability becomes an intrinsic part of your organisation.