WHITE PAPER
  • Organizational

Organizational (Re-)design – the Objectivity Challenge

Being more open about the realities of re-design decisions can improve trust and confidence amongst those impacted by change



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Organizational design initiatives rarely follow a ‘clean’, logical, decision making process – according to a recent research paper from Ashridge Executive Education, Hult International Business School.

In fact, a core finding of the research was that “There is a ‘dirty secret’ in organization design that decision making is often highly political and subjective.” Being objective is a major challenge for re-design leadership. 

Leaders of redesign initiatives are often heavily influenced by assumptions about what the future organization should look like, and seek to make this a reality in spite of what the facts might indicate. The researchers at Ashridge, Philippa Hardman and Dev Mookherjee, say, rather than accepting untested subjective preferences, leaders should acknowledge their assumptions whilst staying open to new data and thinking.

The difficulty of being objective often leads to a call to bring in external consultants. The researchers describe the downside to this approach by quoting one executive they met who bemoaned “the fact that very large parts of the design process had been outsourced to consultants with the result being a loss of learning, high fees and a loss of control for the sake of perceived objectivity and expertise.”

The great value of the research paper, is that Hardman and Mookherjee offer clear guidance to leaders facing this objectivity challenge. The topics they cover when highlighting the implications for practitioners include:

  • Restructuring versus re-design
  • Triggers for organizational re-design
  • Design versus implementation
  • High level choices of re-design that affect timescales
  • Pros and cons of using consultants
  • Persuasive engagement and collaborative engagement
  • The importance of listening
  • Effective communication
  • Thinking about people first
  • Acknowledging the fit between people and structure
  • Who takes responsibility for the success of the re-design
  • Responsibility for implementation
  • Creating ‘the bigger picture’ for the organization

“Bringing the secret out into the open, being more open about the realities of re-design and the process that is being used, and about who will be making those all-important decisions, would go a long way to improving trust and confidence amongst those impacted by re-designs” say Hardman and Mookherjee.

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Ashridge Executive Education, part of Hult International Business School, helps organisations around the world improve their leadership talent, strategic thinking and organisational culture.





 
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