Naturally, this causes uncertainty among the employees, and there is no time to involve as many people in the decision-making processes for the necessary changes as there would perhaps normally be.
Organisational structure is a critical part of changing the system quickly. When the pace of change increases, and the changes in themselves become more comprehensive, it is a natural response to increase focus on the cause of these changes, but this does not necessarily have to equal a reduced focus on leadership. Clarity in roles, responsibilities and structure can help provide both your employees and managers with a framework to navigate by once these many changes are implemented.
The good news is that a focused and intensive design process can help you design a new organisational structure adapted to the new normal. An organisational structure that helps safeguard the company and give employees a sense of security.
The following three steps can help you design an adapted organisational structure – in just a few weeks:
- Identify the need for change and its scope
- Focus on the pace of change and targeted involvement
- Adapt your changes on the other side of the crisis
Identify the need for change and its scope
You need to implement measures to safeguard your company right now. The current crisis has made many of us uncertain about what to do. We just know that we need to act quickly to ensure earnings and cash flow and to limit costs. We also need to ensure a stable supply chain, and we may be forced to shut down product or service areas, reduce staff functions or to allocate tasks and responsibilities in new ways.
These are heavy tasks indeed, and common to them all is that the decision-making and implementation of the changes need to be done quickly but in such a way that you do not lose sight of your long-term strategy, including the ability to return to your position of strength in the market. If you want to avoid losing sight of your long-term strategy, it is crucial to keep focus on the applied design principles. Your design principles are your “compass” for what the new structure needs to be able to do. In other words, there should be alignment between your long-term strategy and your design criteria for developing your new structure. If your strategy e.g. necessitates that your company should be able to adapt rapidly to changes in customer needs and demand, one design criterion could be a high degree of agility.
It is also important that you continuously evaluate the risks of the change and adapt its pace and solutions accordingly.
Focus on the pace of change and targeted involvement
The necessary speed in the change process will limit opportunities for involvement. Under normal circumstances, the right thing to do would be to involve employees from different levels in the organisation to ensure that you have many views on the possible solutions.
But a rapid change does not leave room for broad involvement. It is therefore a critical task in this process to ascertain who has or should have decision mandate for the changes that must be done in order to safeguard the company in the long term. What must be done and who can and should decide how and when?
Involve the essential employees and managers in a “war room” workshop for the purpose of developing a new structure for the company. Consider whether it could add value to invite the unions to be part of the process early on to support the subsequent implementation. During the war room process of 1-2 weeks, the decision-making and communication basis for the new structure should be based on the following themes:
- The basis and need for change
- The content, scope and necessary pace of the change
- Which benefits should be the result of the change?
- How and where is the change expected to affect the organisation?
- By which design and success criteria should the new structure be developed?
- Allocation of main areas of responsibility, management structure, tasks, decision mandates and staffing
- Main risks of the new structure and measures for handling those risks
- Content and time plan for process, communication, implementation and subsequent assessment
The change process should be defined clearly as it will be critical that you, despite a highly intensive process, are able to communicate about motivation behind decisions, content and time plan to the entire organisation and any other stakeholders such as the board, unions, etc. Do not wait for the perfect, final process before acting. Now is the time to act and any adjustments of the change will have to be done as you go along.
Adapt your changes on the other side of the crisis
When you act quickly, you will often need to course correct as you go along, but by communicating honestly, clearly and specifically about your decisions and their alignment with the long-term strategy, you may be able to avoid the worst of the negative consequences. The clear and transparent communication is essential to create faith in the motivation for the tough decisions.
Once the most urgent crisis is over, you need to assess and review your organisational structure, not least to assess whether you achieved the stated benefits. You should evaluate whether the structure works according to expectations, including decisions on any adjustments to implement. This time, you should have a broader level of involvement across the company to create motivation and anchoring of the changes.
Your organisational structure is not just a reporting structure. It is far more than that. This is where your colleagues and employees should be able to find the stability and mandate to contribute optimally to the development of your company. A company that is both adaptable and robust and that gives a sense of security, stability and has development power.
Now is your chance to begin your journey towards a new and stronger organisation after the crisis.