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Realising the impact of organisation design - Ten questions for business leaders | Whitepaper


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Well done to you all on a very successful business transformation programme. While it is fresh in our collective memories let us reflect on the lessons learned from our professional partners Deloitte, and our own experience of this journey.

When we set out to transform our organisation, we knew the stakes going in: A change this big could be the stroke that defined our legacy as leaders of this business.

Done well, organisation design can make a significant improvement in performance, because it amplifies the alignment of the organisation to its strategy and business model. It can improve speed to market and customer experience improvement. And it can go a long way toward trimming costs.

Organisation design is a complex undertaking with no guarantees. Before we embarked on the project we reflected on research from Deloitte which they conducted on 130 organisation design projects from their global client base in the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Netherlands, Belgium, Southern Africa and Southeast Asia. Fewer than 20 percent of these projects exceeded the original business case values that were used to justify them in the first place. And that’s not all.

  • Most organisation design projects proceed to the design phase with very limited analytical work. The analytics that do take place are often based on incomplete or very high-level data sets.
  • Most design projects don’t go far enough in addressing real organisational or structural issues.
  • In more than 60 percent of cases, these important projects are left up to middle management to design and implement. There’s too little sponsorship, oversight or involvement from senior executives.
  • Often, businesses embark on organisation design projects in search of benefits they can’t achieve through organisation design alone—or even at all.

So why did we succeed in the tough journey we undertook with the odds stacked against us? I think that our approach using three simple steps was the key:

Decide: Is organisation design the right solution for the business?
Design: The right future organisation is not based on structures alone.
Deliver: Realise the planned benefits and value through thorough implementation.

To a significant degree, the way this project turned out was up to us as leaders. Case after real-world case shows the outcome of organisation design hinges on a sponsor who has the energy to drive necessary decisions, the profile and personal characteristics to build commitment in the organisation, and the stamina to stay the course. In addition, I think that having a strong team of independent advisors helping us throughout the journey, sharing optimal design options seen in other organisations, helped us avoid implementation pitfalls and facilitated the process against our tight timelines.

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