What’s important is to avoid diving head first into organizational changes without regard for the extent of their impact on your business. As we’ve just finished the London Summer Olympics, let’s continue that analogy using synchronized diving as an example. An obscure example? Perhaps, but consider what it takes for the judges (your customers) to give you high marks: both divers (representing different business units) must be on the same page, executing flawless flips and twists while maintaining equal pace and minimizing the amount of splash as they enter the water (market). That’s a lot more complicated than two guys running simultaneously off the high dive and giving the crowd their best cannonball, right?
Organizational change needs to be well planned and executed, taking into account the business ramifications and especially the people — your leaders, managers, and employees — who will be responsible for carrying out the change. Consider the following groups of questions when undertaking a strategic change initiative to ensure that you’re poised to win the Gold:
New strategic initiative
When undertaking a new strategic initiative, think about your current business model, short- and long-term goals, and existing plans and budgets. The new initiative could be to place a deeper focus on your strategic accounts in an effort to win more business from current customers, setting up your business to take advantage of a new opportunity, or realigning to streamline or separate parts of your business.
- Where are you today and where do you need to go?
- What is your time frame to get there?
- How prepared are you to lead through the disruption?
Align business processes
Look at how your company currently operates, and consider what changes will be necessary to fulfill the change. Some functions will experience considerable disruption, while others might not notice. This set of questioning requires a big-picture view across your operations to look at the process flow today and during and after the change.
- Based on the strategy, how does the work get done across the organization?
- What changes and what stays the same?
- How do we manage interdependencies (governance)?
- What key performance indicators (KPIs) are essential to benchmark and track?
Align jobs and organization
Continuing from the previous set of questions, once you’ve identified those business units that are at the greatest risk from the change, drill down deeper to examine the impact on specific jobs and functions. Then, look above the jobs to how they are arranged and whether or not your leadership and management structure will support the new environment.
- Based on the process and the organization, what does each job do?
- How will the jobs change?
- Which jobs will be added or eliminated?
- Is the workload reasonable? Will people be overworked or underutilized?
- What is the most efficient and effective way to organize the jobs?
- How will reporting relationships change?
- Is the span of control for managers reasonable?
Some might view this set of questions as splitting hairs, especially if you’re not dramatically reorganizing. Perhaps you won’t need to shift departments or personnel, but what if what you’re asking your employees to do requires something more from them?
Years ago, cars were simple for most mechanics to maintain. But in recent years, vehicles have become much more complex, with onboard computers and diagnostic systems, not to mention hybrid batteries and engines, which require mechanics to become tech savvy in addition to their traditional training. They didn’t make that leap overnight. Once those cars were introduced, manufacturers needed to train the dealer mechanics in order to be able to service the latest models.
Consider a pharmaceutical company that shifts the focus of its sales reps from selling to doctors to pitching to health system executives and CEOs? The sales reps will need to alter their approach, message, demeanor, and ability to have strategic conversations (not just tactical ones) with much more senior-level customers. How readily can they make that change?
- Based on the new jobs, what competencies are required for success?
- To be successful, must incumbents possess innate behaviors, or can they acquire skills for the job?
- What does your “ideal” candidate look like for each job?
- What is the availability of “ideal” talent, and at what cost?
- Do the economics of your new organization make sense?
Here’s where you look beyond the roles to the individuals occupying them. You and your managers must dispassionately assess the people on whom you will rely to make and sustain the desired change. Who will step up and who won’t make the cut? How will you incent and motivate them to adapt to the new normal for your organization?
- How do your incumbents compare to your “ideal” candidates for each job?
- Who fits and who doesn’t?
- Who do you need to hire, fire, or redeploy?
- What additional development do your people need to ramp up and be successful?
- How will you measure individual performance?
- What is the relationship between performance and pay?
Some of these questions will be simple to answer. If that’s true for you, then congratulations, as long as you’re being truly honest with your answers. You should also consider running through these questions before, during, and after a strategic change initiative. Once your change process gets underway, new considerations could be revealed that you hadn’t previously factored into your planning.