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27 May 2016

± minute read

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Theo H Veldsman University of Johannesburg, Johannesburg

An essential precondition to establish Organisational Design (OD) as a proper Executive Task in an organisation and as a critical organisational discipline demands eradicating the prevalent myths regarding OD upfront, i.e., adopting the right frame of reference (or mindset) with respect to OD. At least ten myths have to be addressed.

  • Myth 1: OD design is common sense or a dark art of dubious reputation for which no or at most a restricted, unproven body of knowledge exists. Truth: A vast body of credible knowledge and expertise exists regarding OD.
  • Myth 2: OD does not require the shifting of mindsets, frames of reference, attitudes and conduct. Going through the motions of rehashing the existing is good enough. Truth: The emerging new world, and the need for finding reformulated strategic positioning for organisations in this order, necessitate a fundamental rethink of an organisation’s design: how to deliver better and differently in a fundamentally different world.
  • Myth 3: OD can be done on the back of a cigarette box or a serviette, preferably over a good bottle of wine, at the speed of lightning. Truth: A proper, well thought and complete OD requires an integrated, systematic design process addressing all of the building blocks making up a fit-for-purpose OD, including all levels and dimensions of design.
  • Myth 4: There is only one best way (or recipe) of doing OD, e.g., call in the external experts to advise us. Truth: Though the basic OD process always remains the same, the execution of the process must be customised every time to fit a specific OD need, window of opportunity and persons involved.
  • Myth 5: OD only involves merely redrawing organograms by rearranging boxes, titles, reporting lines. Truth: OD as the Operating Model of the organisation deals with the delivery logic of an organisation. An organogram does not by any measure equate to the complete picture of an organisation’s delivery logic. It is merely one piece thereof. The drafting of the organogram is one of the last steps in the OD process.
  • Myth 6: OD (= structure) can be looked at in isolation. The greater Organisational Landscape, made up of building blocks like leadership, technology and culture does not need to be considered. Truth: The design of the organisation forms an inherent part of the total Organisational Landscape, which forms a systemic, holistic whole. In touching the OD of the Organisational Landscape, one touches the whole Landscape. A properly embedded OD therefore needs to be supported and re-inforced by the other building blocks of the Organisational Landscape.
  • Myth 7: One can build one’s design around the people and the expertise they have, or to eliminate destructive interpersonal and team dynamics - however illogical that design may be. Truth: OD as the operating model of an organisation reflecting its delivery logic, exists apart from the leadership and people required to staff up the design.
  • Myth 8: By imitating what others are doing design-wise, one can be relieved from asking tough questions about the design of one’s own organisation. Truth: One can learn from other organisations’ designs but in the end one has to go through the discipline imposed by the OD process to arrive at one’s own fit-for-purpose design if one wishes to use one’s design as a competitive edge.
  • Myth 9: OD offers a short term, quick fix solution if things are not going well. Restructure is the name of the game when the going gets tough. Use it to panel beat the organisation quickly into the proper shape. Truth: If done properly, an OD should have the same lifespan as the strategic intent of an organisation because an organisation’s OD provides one of the strongest, best ways to successfully roll out of an organisation’s strategy intent.
  • Myth 10: A new OD can merely be announced and imposed. People will readily and willingly accept and adopt the new delivery logic. Truth: Any new design requires a carefully crafted change navigation strategy and plan to counter the insecurity, politics and resistance invoked by an OD intervention, and to build buy-in and ownership of the new design. The more the new design differs from the existing design, the greater the need for change navigation.

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