THE RESTRUCTURE TRAP

If you’re a leader considering a restructure because your organization has stalled in some way, hit pause.Your well-intentioned efforts will likely make things worse.That’s the advice and prediction of Boston Consulting Group (BCG) executives Yves Morieux and Peter Tollman.They’ve looked at BCG’s work with more than 500 organizations around the globe (along with other research) on how companies manage complexity, problem-solve and change.The consultants packed all their findings into a book, Six Simple Rules: How to Manage Complexity without Getting Complicated. It’s worth a read.To keep this short, here are a few Morieux/Tollman insights on what happens with most fixes and restructures. You may have encountered some of them yourself.

  • No employee perspective – Restructures and/or fixes generally lack the direct experience and perspective of the employees closest to the problem and action (this might be the most important lesson).
  • “Complicatedness” – Restructuring usually ends up adding more cumbersome structures and rules to an already over-complicated workplace.
  • Decreased productivity – Complicatedness destroys an organization’s ability to get anything done.
  • Staff dissatisfaction – “Do overs after do overs” (fix after fix) lead to employee disengagement, dissatisfaction, and lower productivity.
  • Wasted time – Enormous employee hours are diverted into new ill-conceived work structures and processes.

As for a better approach, Morieux and Tollman base their rules for managing complexity and maintaining a thriving organization on one key principle:Create an organizational culture that fiercely supports employees to work cooperatively and with autonomy.In other words, develop internal practices that routinely bring diverse departments and expertise together to get the important work done and/or to solve big problems.And allow employees and departments closest to the action to make decisions without all the permission-seeking and sign-off hoops from upstairs.In other words, involve and trust your employees.

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