One of the fastest ways to break an organisation is to mess up a restructure. A poor restructure can be traced back to a weak design or to ineffective execution. Both can lead to deteriorating customer service, poor morale, lower sales, higher risks and the destruction of value.
Naturally the first ways to stuff up a restructure is to have a poor or fuzzy conception of why you are attempting a restructure. When I say ‘you’, I mean the leadership team. The conception must be both clear and publicly supported by each leadership team member. It’s a case of cabinet solidarity or proceed at your peril. Whatever your reasons it is critical to be crystal clear about the rationale and to be able to communicate it to your staff. The communication regarding the reasons behind the restructure may be cost, revenue, flexibility, strategic positioning or sustainability related. Whatever the reasons, each leader should be able to express the rationale in a way that is clear and consistent.
Another common error is to have a poorly conceived design. You might have a good reason behind a decision, and a sound subsequent objective, but you also need a clear view on what is really going to change. If you have only thought of structure, then you probably have an incomplete design. The reality of a modern organisation means that structure is just not enough: at a minimum you need to think about structure, process, accountabilities, metrics and systems. By considering these elements you are designing an operating model, which is the real means by which organisations deliver services.
The next way to really mess up is to underestimate the importance of detail. A view of the organisation that is only top down is essentially a myopic view. You do not need to personally understand what everyone in the organisation does, but for many restructures someone somewhere needs to be able to ensure that critical tasks are accounted for and competencies understood. Failure to do so can mean that processes that used to work suddenly (or progressively) fail, or that some staff become overworked whilst others are bored senseless.
Even if you get all the above design elements right, you can still fall over when it comes to poor execution. Firstly, failing to communicate clearly, consistently and through different media will invariably lead to a choppy deployment.
If people do not understand the why, what and how, including the impacts on them personally, then you are unlikely to get cooperation.
Secondly, moving too slowly on a restructure can introduce uncertainty that chips away at the organisation’s focus and moral. Yet a fast deployment without stopping later on to tidy up the inevitable loose ends is like leaving a ticking time-bomb in your top drawer. There are always processes, policies, practices or metrics which need some work post-restructure.
So, regardless of the driver for change you would be wise to be clear in your thinking on: why you are changing; what will change (and this means more than structure); and how it will be changed (especially timing and impacts on individual roles). As you deliver the restructure you must be careful to communicate frequently and in differently modalities, to move quickly rather than leave people in limbo, and to plan post restructure activity (because there is always something left to do). Most experienced leaders have seen disappointing restructures, however, they can work with clear thinking, diligent preparation and a sense of urgency.