Organisation Design Policy, Procedures, Guidance

Until earlier this week I had not come across an organization that had introduced a formal policy, procedure and guidance note for its organisation design methodology. So it was an interesting read when I received just such a set of information.

The policy document specifies that its main purpose is to ensure that

• Organisation designs (including restructures) take place in a planned, consistent way in line with the Organisational Design methodology.

• The reasons for change are clear and transparent and that the risks of change and doing nothing are demonstrated.

• Design work takes place in partnership with stakeholders, ensuring their involvement at the earliest opportunity.

• Employees and their representatives are fully consulted concerning any changes that impact them throughout the process.

Adopting this policy puts the brake on organisation design approaches based on the back of an envelope redrawing of the organisation chart with which we are unfortunately all too familiar, and directs the work towards planning a thoughtful process that can be tracked, properly managed, and stopped if it's not working.

What I liked about the document is

a) that it is not overly prescriptive but it does make the point that "Whilst there is always a need to act swiftly it is important that swift action is not to the longer term detriment of the direction of the organisation"
b) that it is completely clear that redesign means addressing the whole system as a set of interconnected parts.
c) that it pretty much mandates a governance process starting with a business case for the redesign

The procedure part of the document makes the point that design interventions vary and that tailoring the approach and use of the methodology is much better than trying to follow it as a prescription.

The guidance notes cover engagement, formal and informal consultation processes, and includes how and when to interact with the Trades Unions and the legal position on this.

There are a couple of excellent paragraphs on the return on investment of undertaking a redesign project first making the point that "It is important to remember that undertaking an Organisation Design Project is expensive and time consuming." And then reminding people that it is "very easy to do a direct cost comparisons without understanding the other hidden costs and impact of changing [the design] without having properly considered how this in reality affects the end user."

Some guidance is given on how to give up on a project that no longer meets requirements. This is often necessary but infrequently done – so I applaud this approach that makes it clear that giving up is an ok thing to do in certain circumstances.

The guidance notes give an indication of timescales involved depending on project size, and tackle, and finally they tackle some frequently asked questions.

All in all this is a well produced document that puts organisation design firmly on the map in an enterprise explaining succinctly that it is an activity that needs to be managed and controlled to reap value.

This is a new policy for the organisation and I'll be interested to see how it plays out, and how external consultants used in the organisation are brought into line.