#lgworkforce – Successfully redesigning your organisation

Duncan Brown, Director of the Institute for Employment Studies, provides some lessons from research, what works in practice and pitfalls to avoid.

  • How many major reorganisations have we all been through? Lots and lots, it would seem. Not many seem to have gone that well.
  • Context: budget cuts, redundancies rising, private sector is still cutting costs, more partnerships, outsourcing, shared services, flexible working, service removal
  • HR and OD depts are being challenged with fundamental questions around organisation structure and culture
  • How many people, in how many layers, does a council really need?
  • To get a 10% cost reduction, you need to target 25% cuts?
  • Restructuring: it’s happening more and more, isn’t going away, high stakes activity, organisations need to be good at it – because at the moment they aren’t
  • Less focus on internal issues than external which often leads to reduced success
  • What do you need to consider during a restructure? Incidence and influences.
  • Nature of change is shaped primarily by managers’ prior experiences, much less so on external advice
  • Reductions/Recruitment/Redeployment of staff
  • What are the causes of the change – what effect does this have on the nature of the change?
  • Don’t just look at total cost and numbers. Consider organisation of services – and workflow and geography.
  • Specialisation v co-ordination
  • New forms such as networks, modular, processes and project based structures
  • Get your risk management right
  • Balance of internal and external, fixed and flexible sourcing
  • Strategy, structure, processes, rewards and people – star model of change (Galbraith?)
  • Consider competence and capability early – need for knowledge and experience
  • ‘Organisation architecture’
  • To be successful – Choose a team to manage change, craft a vision, connect organisation-wide change, consult stakeholders and employees, communicate clearly, support people so they can cope with change, capture learning
  • Also – early planning, address cultural issues, manage risk, capable HR function attending to the basics, appropriate speed
  • Success is nothing to do with numbers of layers or the scale of cuts
  • What would employers do differently in reorgs? More training, better comms with staff, better project management, redesign career structures, learn from other orgs
  • Difference between programmatic change and adaptive change. Programmatic more command and control. All about implementation, less about humans
  • Get the strategy right first, then assess, plan and prepare, then implement and manage. Evaluate, and keep doing it.
  • Removing layers not always the easy win it first appears.
  • Maintain staff engagement: lower turnover, better attendance, greater initiative, wanting to develop, higher productivity, improved customer service
  • Employee reductions – consider survivor symptoms – they have organisational outcomes: morale, risk avoidance, reduced motivation and commitment. Done well, the reverse can be true.
  • Prepare well, drive and leadership from the top, customers at the heart of change, don’t waste a good crisis, learn from outside but find right fit for your org, invest to save (get expertise and resources you need), ensure good union and staff relationships, communicate extensively, proceed with pace, be bold

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Dave Briggs

I'm an experienced senior manager in digital and ICT, looking for interim engagements to modernise technology teams to help organisations transform.