Position management v organization design

Question: We are responsible for assisting government offices to design their organizational structure. The process is as follows:

1) Government Ministries/Department draw up their strategic plans

2) Once the plan has been accepted they start working how they need to adjust their organization design to ensure implementation of the plan. Some do Business Process Re-engineering and some don't because it is not a requirement.

3) When the request for structural help come to our Department, we tackle the request by looking at the following elements:

• Unity of command and direction
• Chain of command
• Span of control
• Division of work
• Standardisation

We do workflow studies and we use the norms to design positions on the structure.

The problem we experience with this approach is that it has not been agreed upon as a policy framework; the structural principles are being rejected as they do not address the strategic direction of Departments.

The question I am asking my colleagues and myself as a head of the Department is:

Are there other approaches to Organization Design that can solve the issues at hand? How do we ensure that we develop a policy framework and get buy in and build capacity of Departments to do their organization design?

Answer: Your current approach is 'Position Management' defined by one US government agency as "the assignment of mission functions to organizations in a manner which ensures legal and properly accomplished work load while making optimum use of human resources." Position management is only one aspect of an organization design and comes towards the end of the design phase. NOTE there are five phases in an organization design project: assess, design, plan to implement, implement, review and evaluate.

Unless you are able to demonstrate to the business managers that you are recommending certain structures and positions in a way that is a direct response to their strategic direction and plan you will not get their support. It may be too late for this year but your first goal must be to get involved with developing the business strategy with the line managers/heads of department. Here's a suggested way of approaching the issue. In terms of the five phases of the organization design methodology this falls in the design phase. You may or may not have the time/opportunity to go back and do any assessments – that might include a change readiness of the workforce to deliver the new strategy.

Step 1: Discuss the main themes of the strategy with the line manager. For example, one of the themes may be to "Reduce costs and tackle inefficiencies".

Step 2: In the same discussion find out how the manager is thinking of operationalizing this strategy. He may say that he is going to reduce headcount, or multiskill people, or merge two overlapping departments. Your job here is to act as a consultant and ask him, among other things, what is the new work flow going to be, what implications the operational plan will have on the workforce, and risks and consequences of his intended actions. You will go out of this meeting with a good idea of the ground that you would need to cover in a people plan for the manager.

Step 3: Develop a draft people plan to discuss with the manager, but keep it at a high level. Your plan will cover some themes like: maintaining motivation, teaching people to work in new business processes, moving people to new roles, laying some people off.

Step 4: Present the high level plan to the manager and show how your plan ties back to his delivering his strategic plan. Ask for his agreement to this plan. This gives you the go-ahead to do a detailed people plan and it is only at this stage that you start to think about the position management aspect. Here's an example of one element of a high level people plan

We are cost efficient and invest in what matters most to our customers

• Conduct regular organization reviews to identify areas for streamlining and improvement
• Deliver local change initiatives to meet cost/service quality targets
• Manage headcount effectively in line with business requirements eg deliver recruitment to meet volume/wastage targets, manage voluntary severance as appropriate
• Support the changes to the organization to achieve these successfully

Step 5: From the high level plan develop a detailed people plan with timeline that is synchronized with any other work that the manager is doing as part of redesigning to deliver his business strategy – for example he might be introducing some new IT software, or changing work flows. The people plan MUST align with this work. Suggest measures that will show him you are on track. You'll see that position management comes into play at this point.

Take the example of bullet 3 above in the high level plan example:

• Manage headcount effectively in line with business requirements eg deliver recruitment to meet volume/wastage targets, manage voluntary severance as appropriate

In a detailed plan you might be detailing actions around:

Future skills e.g.
• Identify future critical skill by level/family against different scenarios
• Assess the population against the requirement (skills audit
• Defind the skills gap
• Define what is trainable
• Define transition skill requirements

Numbers e.g.
• Identify headcount targets for Yr 1, Yr 2, and Yr 3 against different scenarios e.g. Scenario A re-engineer/automate; Scenario B relocate; Scenario C Outsource
• Identify future flexible resourcing requirements e.g. part-time, annual hours
• Identify manpower flows:
a) Natural flows (historical), Natural was wastage, internal organization flows
b) Identify induced flows required against each scenario and skill requirement. Number and skills to shed e.g. induced exit, redeployment, termination of temporary contracts. Number and skills to acquire e.g. based on volume, performance. Numbers to reskill/train
c) Identify manpower transition requirements including change programme resourcing

Position management
a) Develop a suggested structure and workforce positioning drawn from the information above
b) Check before implementation that the new structure and positions will deliver the business strategy (by doing walkthroughs of the work flow)
c) Manage the positions (position management)

Step 6: Present the detailed people plan – again showing how your proposal will deliver the strategy and giving information on how you plan to measure that it is actually doing so.

Once you have covered these 6 steps you are ready to do the planning to implement it.

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