Organizational Physiology – Why organizational redesigns rarely work

12 Mar

If we look at organizations and superimpose a human on to it, the organization chart/structure is like our skeleton, processes and systems like our muscles and culture like our brains.

The organization structure merely gives representational shape such that when we look at an organization chart, we can roughly figure out who does what. But the structure on its own gets nothing done.

Processes is what gives life to an organization. Work gets done by people in accordance to processes. Two structures that are exactly the same but with different processes will produce different results. In human form, two skeletons may be exactly the same but if one is left handed and the other right handed, each would have muscles that are developed slightly differently.

Finally we have culture. Culture is like our brains. Culture is what, controls, guides and dictates the way people behave. Two organizations with the exact same structure, same process but different culture will produce very different results.

When it comes to re-organization, management, and often times consultants, lead management to believe that the solution to their problems is in the redesign of the organization. So after many dollars are spent and new boxes are drawn, nothing else happens.

Well if all we do is draw boxes but don’t change processes – whats the point? In fact we may end up with more conflict and confusion.

And if the people sitting in the new boxes bring in their old mindsets, then the restructure is all for nothing, because people will continue to do what they have been doing. As the saying goes, “if you keep on doing what you have been doing, you will keep on getting what you have been getting.” To expect a different result is the definition of insanity.

Therefore, the true starting point of any reorganization is in the minds of the leadership team. They must buy into the new structure, roles and accountabilities and embrace new ways of working. Once the leadership team has new thinking in their minds, then go after the processes which define the inter-accountabilites between each role, and finally express the changes in terms of a structure.

Once the mind decides it wants something, it is very difficult to stop it from getting what it wants…… but for as long as the mind hasn’t decided, nothing will move.


Posted by on March 12, 2007 in Transformation


3 responses to “Organizational Physiology – Why organizational redesigns rarely work

  1. m0-o2

    March 13, 2007 at 6:11 pm

    Could it be that the true starting point of any reorganization is the HEART of the leadership team. If the HEART is pure, then the BODY (& thus the collective behavior) will be pure. The question that desperately need an answer is how to facilitate the buy-in of the change of the minds & the heart of not only a person, but a set of leaders.

  2. whome

    March 13, 2007 at 10:11 pm

    This is what the developed world discovered 10 years ago and we are still struggling to come to terms with it.

    The heart of transformation is indeed at the leadership level. All you need to do is get leadership to walk the talk and you will see change taking place.

    How do you engage leadership.. that is another story all together. The biggest issues is EGO especially when it is OPM – other peoples money.

  3. Watcher

    March 19, 2007 at 10:36 am

    Engaging ,winning hearts and mind and all the smouldering may be worthless and WOT, if there is no sense ownership and consequential effect to the individual.Therefore transformation starting point is when it sinks into individuals that if the company sink ,i will sink and if the company prosper ,i will prosper.

    As far for “:disengaged leaders” they should be eliminated.The call must be made fast because the “fish rot from the head”.Who should make call ?Abviously by the person who has highest stake ,i.e owner or person given the full mandate ie CEO.

    Till then transformation willl only be NATO.


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