Creating Organizational Structures that Work

The more I see companies, NGOs, associations and other organizations struggle to make sense of who’s doing what in the organization the more I become convinced that structuring is crucial.

When I say structuring, many people directly imagine hierarchy, bureaucracy and lack of flexibility… yet that does not have to be the case. Organizational structures, if done well, will build on the expertise of individuals involved, the organizational capacity, needs and goals. These elements are the corner stone to building a successful organization that can secure sustainability and growth.

Simple yet crucial questions I ask to the organizations I consult include:

  • Who sets the organizational structure?
  • Who decides when and how new positions/responsibilities are added to the structure?
  • Is the organizational structure Functional, Projectized or Matrix?
  • Does everyone know their roles and responsibilities?
  • Does everyone know how their tasks fit with others’ tasks?
  • Is there a promotion/growth plan for the organization?
  • Does everyone know what is needed to do to move up the ladder?
  • Does everyone see the big picture, the overall structure and the logic behind it?
  • Is there a chance to solicit feedback about the structure from grassroots up?
  • Did you research structures of organizations in your industry and learn from them?

Surprisingly, most people know the answer of 2 or 3 of the above 10…and that’s when they realize they’re facing a problem with the organizational structure. The structure often seems so foggy as if it is coming from some alien planet, rather than being something that grew organically with the organization in a way to better manage its work…and reach its goals.

Building on my humble experience and the research I’ve made…the few recommendations I can give to people who are working on establishing/improving an organizational structure are as follows:

  • Observe how the organization is functioning right now, see where the bottlenecks are, and the loop holes.
  • Assess the performance of the whole organization by taking input of everyone possible, from senior management to interns to all other stakeholders.
  • Ask yourself what other structures exist for your industry and how can you best learn from them.
  • Focus on roles, responsibilities and tasks…not on the titles and positions, as they should come last after having set the structure.
  • Make sure you have the right people in the right places, the Person-Role must match or they will already be sabotaging your organization.
  • Resistance to change is normal, deal with it with utmost positivity and be as considerate and understand of other’s worries as possible or else you’ll lose their productivity.
  • Give your structure a margin of change as it might need to evolve a bit from your original plan to accommodate to some personal and organizational needs.

I hope the above gave you a better insight on creating organizational structures that work… I’m ready for all questions, suggestions and comments.

Happy Structuring!  😀

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