Making Change Stick

92% of C-suite executives surveyed in Mercer’s recent Global Talent Trends study for 2017 are planning to make changes to the design of their organisations in the next two years. So far so good, but none describe their organisations as change ready. This sounds like a recipe for ‘…creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency, and demoralization.’

Goal clarity is difficult at the best of times, given that it can be eroded by changes of strategy, changes in the external environment, mergers and acquisitions, ineffective management and poor job design. Changes in organisation design can simply compound the problem. Poor performance is bound to follow if employees can’t see the goal-posts.

To be clear, I am not saying that executives should not aim to re-design their organisations. What I am saying is that the re-design effort should not be the major part of their change investment. Designing and implementing the micro-organisation of jobs and teams and decision-making processes is the bigger challenge and it shouldn’t be short-changed.

Being ‘change agile’ is much easier if you understand why your job exists and what are the main enduring outcomes you’re there to deliver. Relying on a high level strategy or a set of KPIs that change annually won’t help much when the structure changes and it’s no longer clear who is accountable for which part of the plan and who therefore owns those KPIs.

Executives planning to change their structures should keep in mind that organisational performance rests on role clarity, and this requires employees knowing what they are there to deliver and how this contributes to the wider mission of the organisation. A new structure may not deliver as expected without that level of awareness.