6 Field-tested Steps to Restructure Your Team

chart showing Steps to Restructure Your Team

The Definition of Organizational Structure
Effective organizational structures help teams to perform beyond the sum of their parts.  Before embarking on steps to restructure your team, leaders should be clear about what their current and desired organizational structure encompasses in terms of goals, roles, tasks, and processes used to organize the flow of work.  This includes the underlying relationships and beliefs required to get work done on a day-to-day basis.

Steps to Restructure Your Team
Periodically and for a variety of reasons, it makes sense to reorganize your team to unlock value or to fix a problem.  While team reorganizations sound like a relatively fast and concrete way to solve complex problems, a recent McKinsey survey found that over eighty percent fail to deliver the desired benefits on schedule.  And teams that have been through a reorganization often report higher levels of stress, lower levels of productivity, and decreased levels of employee engagement.

So while structural change sounds like a smart way to improve collaboration, communication, and performance problems, team reorganizations are fraught with performance and people challenges.

The Top Reasons to Reorganize Your Team
As with any change, there is typically a specific catalyst that drives the need to restructure a team.  The most common reasons reported by our clients include:

  • Realigning functions and people to new strategic directions
  • Adapting to changes in leadership
  • Solving collaboration, communication, decision-making, or performance problems
  • Reducing costs
  • Refocusing priorities
  • Unlocking potential in terms of efficiency or effectiveness
  • Keeping up with the fast pace of external change
  • Aligning confusing or contradictory goals, roles, scope and success metrics

Why Up to 80% of Team Reorganizations Fail
Any reorganization upsets the status quo.  And change is likely to be at least resisted and at worst feared and fought.  Like most major corporate change initiatives, team reorganizations typically fail due to employee resistance driven by a combination of:

  • Lack of a compelling reason for the change
  • Unclear vision for success
  • Ambiguous or misaligned goals, roles, or success metrics
  • Contradictory cultural norms
  • Misaligned leadership
  • Insufficient resources or capabilities
  • Inability to monitor progress and continuously improve

Six Field-tested Steps to Restructure Your Team
Whatever the reason and whatever the final configuration that you take steps to restructure your team, in order to minimize disruption and maximize efficiency and efficacy, you cannot afford to get your team reorganization wrong.  You need to:

1. Begin with the End in Mind
When it comes to redesigning your team, form follows function. Form follows function is a principle of architecture that states that the shape of a structure should be dictated by its function.  Before you start rearranging roles and shifting responsibilities, make sure you are crystal clear about what you are trying to accomplish, how it ties into the overall strategic priorities, and why it is meaningful, urgent and important.

While it is easier to draw new org charts than to agree upon the critical few strategic priorities that matter most, make sure you know how the new goals, roles, tasks, processes, success metrics, and interdependencies will directly help people and the business better execute your strategy

2. Actively Involve Key Stakeholders
To achieve meaningful and lasting org. changes, those affected should be as actively involved in the design process as possible.  Your key stakeholders need to understand why change is needed, buy into how the new ways will improve their circumstances, and actively participate in the effort to define and live new goals, roles, scope, habits, and mindsets that support the new org. structure.  The key is to go slow to go fast.

Too many leaders jump to org. charts and people before they have clearly defined where the team is headed, how the team fits into the overall corporate strategy, and how success will be measured.  How can you actively involve your stakeholders?

3. Take Workplace Culture into Account
We define workplace culture as how work gets done on a day-to-day basis. Shuffling team roles and responsibilities is going to inevitably upset many norms.  Individuals and teams may worry about losing their status, their turf, their job, and their hard-won experience.

For a team to come out on the positive side of a restructuring, your team health must be strong enough and your cultural norms must be aligned enough with your objectives to create a solid foundation for lasting change.  Is your team’s culture healthy and aligned enough to support a reorg?

4. Choose Capable Change Leaders
To minimize resistance and confusion, be sure that you have the right people in the right leadership positions. They need to have the confidence of their teams, the willingness to listen and consider their team’s concerns, and the flexibility to adjust as needed to the specific issues that affect their team members.  They need to be able to motivate their employees and guide them through the transition from the old to the new.

Do your leaders have what it takes to handle a reorg?

5. Encourage Cross-Functional Relationships and Collaboration
Often, the purpose of a re-organization is to break down silos within and across functions. If this is the driving force behind your reorg, make sure that everyone understands the day in and day out expectations of collaboration, that you model and reinforce the desired behaviors, and that you foster the kind of open communication that supports strong relationships.

6. Recognize and Reward
How do you continue to progress in the right direction? By recognizing and rewarding desired behaviors and by having meaningful consequences for undesired behaviors.  Be clear about what behaviors will support the change you seek and then encourage those behaviors with appropriate incentives and rewards.

The Bottom Line
If there is any ambiguity or dissension regarding who does what, when they do it, how they do it and why they do it, the chances of your team reorganization delivering the results you want are greatly diminished.  No organizational change should be attempted without clearly understanding the goals and being fully prepared.  Follow the steps to restructure your team.  Don’t sabotage performance by ignoring the basics of successful change management during a reorg.

To learn more essentials for leading change, download the 5 New Lenses of Change Leadership

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