Home > Perspectives > 4 best practices to humanize reorganizations


by Akoya

Ratio-based approaches supported by dense benchmarks, guidelines issued by a corporate office based on a proposal from a consulting firm, asap implementation for urgent returns on investments, etc. This could be the three brutal components of reorganization as it is often perceived today. Add to this the fact that the rare statistics on the subject give a failure rate of around 70%, and rethinking organizational design becomes an urgent matter.


No one denies the need to reorganize. A new strategy, a new competitor, a new tool, a new acquisition, a new leadership, all good reasons to rethink the way tasks are distributed. But then, how do you strike the right balance between responding to business challenges and implementing a human approach?

And while reorganization cannot be reduced to organizational design, approaching it in a more balanced way is crucial to the smooth running of the next stages, and in particular change management. A more humane organizational design means shorter, less costly, and more unifying change management. Here are 4 best practices to put people back at the heart of reorganizations: 1. taking the time to establish a shared strategic vision, 2. going beyond individuals and moving to activities, 3. co-constructing the new organization with the teams, 4. framing skills needs and major interactions.


1. Take the time to establish a shared strategic vision

A change in organization is the answer to a clearly identified business need. But generally, various alternatives are offered to you. And when you look at your competitors, they tend to lean towards one option as much as the other.

This is where vision comes in. Expressing it in a concerted manner with all the decision-makers in the concerned perimeter will allow you to give a clear direction to each decision because you will share the same final objective.  And it is up to you, the decision-makers, to establish this vision, to choose the most appropriate direction. Based on your experience, your knowledge of the issues, your corporate culture, and your conviction. Note that at this stage it is more important to make a decision than to over-analyze.

Taking the time to establish the vision will facilitate all the trade-offs that will follow in terms of operational models, distribution of activities and definition of roles and responsibilities. But the vision will also be crucial later on, when you will need to explain to multiple stakeholders the choices you have made. The time saved is well worth the investment.


2. Go beyond individuals and moving to activities

A reorganization will necessarily have an impact on the daily life of each employee concerned. So how can such a delicate operation be carried out in a humane way? In this situation, it means being fair. And being fair does not mean building an organization around individuals who are bound to be only transiting. To be fair is to design a structure that makes sense within which employees will be appointed according to their skills.

And this requires constant discipline and a rigorous methodology. It will be your job to characterize all the activities carried out within the scope. Evaluate the current workload. Consider new groupings. Understand their predictable evolution. Then estimate the workload in the target vision. And finally, reconstitute jobs.

As in any ontology, the challenge will then be to stick to a necessary and sufficient granularity. Neither too wide to be able to maintain the necessary finesse of adjustment nor too fine to ensure that you don’t get lost in accessory details.


3. Co-construct the new organization with the teams

Due to an often-sensitive context, the temptation is great to keep an organizational design project within a restricted circle of accredited individuals. And thanks to benchmarks, ratios will be established in order to dimension what should logically be the workload devoted to each activity. But it is often this primal fear of sharing a sensitive reflection that leads to the mistrust of teams in the “field” towards the proposals of the corporate department.

Another way is possible. It consists in letting the local teams determine themselves within an acceptable framework in line with the vision. They are in the best position to make the assessment. Especially since they will be the ones who will have to implement the target vision on a daily basis. And one can only be pleasantly surprised at their ability to challenge the established order.

However, involving employees in their own reorganization is not without effort. Explanation of the vision. Clarification of objectives. Permanent, collective, and individual reinsurance. Respecting the given word. These daily commitments are largely overshadowed by the benefits in terms of change management and the trust created.


4. Frame the needs in skills and major interactions

Once the organizational plan has been drawn up, it still needs to be advocated among all the decision-makers, from near and far. We may then tend to overshadow the most intangible aspects of a new organization: individuals and their interactions. And yet, they will be the most visible manifestations of it.

An organization necessarily carries new roles. A new role means a new job description and a new list of skills to recruit the best candidates for those positions and give them the best chance of success.

As for interactions, their quality will cement the relationships in a flourishing organization since they are the ones that will give meaning to the new distribution of activities. And if it is delusional to consider detailing the nature of all interactions, marking out the major business processes, always with the teams, will be one more step towards this new organization.


4 best practices, 4 good reasons to approach the next reorganization  with more optimism and enthusiasm. But also 4 good reasons to make sure your company has the right skills to lead them. No more time to waste!