Benchmarks and best practices are a popular topic. “What are my peers doing about new regulation? What do similar companies spend on IT? How do my salaries compare with those in my industry and my geography? How and where are my competitors investing their resources? Compared to my peers, am I overstaffed or understaffed in a given area?” These are valuable pieces of information and when they’re available, they should be incorporated into the decision making process and any planning exercise.
Unfortunately, benchmarks and best practices alone rarely provide the complete or best answer. I recently worked with a client who wanted to know the best organizational structure for two of their departments. I conducted several interviews and reviewed their existing organizational charts. I concluded that their org structure was just fine. In one of many healthy and interesting conversations, the client pushed back and explained further that he wanted to know what similar organizations’ structures looked like. The answer was a hard one to give because I couldn’t provide a hard and fast rule or a crystal-clear path for changes to make to their org chart. My answer was, “well, it depends.”
Organization charts are like snowflakes – every single one is unique, and you can usually feel a chill in the air when one comes out. At the highest levels, you can pretty easily define the major areas in an organization, based on the vision, strategy, and operations. You can also typically define the next layer down; how you divide and conquer the major areas to support internal and external customers. But once you get past that second layer in an existing company, organizational design pretty quickly moves from science to art. There are skills and areas of expertise, and there are nuances to how products and services are built, sold, and supported, all of which must be taken into consideration in order to design and implement a truly effective organizational structure.
After several hearty debates, my client and I agreed that there was no clear need to change the organizational structure. Instead, we will focus on two areas: 1) clarifying, streamlining, documenting, and communicating roles and responsibilities, and 2) improving communications across and between boxes on the org chart so that all employees can work together more effectively and efficiently to get work done and support the company’s strategic growth plans.