Reorganisations are commonplace in the world of work. They always have been, and probably always will be.
Continuously changing environments mean that businesses will always need to adapt, to disrupt, to fracture and to realign themselves in order to respond and remain competitive.
Reorg’s are often a daunting task and a bad reorg can take years to neutralise and correct, leaving a trail of disruption in its wake, with distrust, and disappointment becoming a hallmark of the culture left behind. But a good reorganisation can help give the business room to grow, address issues that the current design simply cannot solve, and create a ‘clean slate’ with which to transcend.
Here’s my 6 tips to you, that I have learned from my experiences with reorganisations in the past, that I hope will help you in the future.
1 – Start with lots of ‘what’ questions
I know it sounds simple, but before any form of reorg is being planned, ask yourself lots of what questions, such as;- what you are trying to achieve, what are all the issues that you are trying to solve, what will success look like, what will failure look like, what will failure feel like, what are all the options to be considered instead of a reorg, what makes a reorg the best option, what issues will you come across during the process, what group of employees will you need to discuss the reorg with and what will you tell them? Keep asking ‘what’, it’ll be worth it.
The more planning that takes place the better, but that planning must also take place before a reorg is decided, not after it’s been decided, so that important questions are not missed.
2 – Decide who owns the decision and project – it probably shouldn’t be HR.
Agents of change we are, owners of change, in this context, we probably shouldn’t be. If the above ‘what’ section has been carried out correctly, then the reason for the change should be clear, and ‘to make HR’s lives easier’ will not be the main driver! This process will be to better serve the organisation and so business leaders should take ownership over it. No manager I have ever met has enjoyed decisions being forced upon them or things being done ‘to them’, so their ownership, and critically their input, is vital. If they aren’t on board and don’t take accountability for it’s success, then they aren’t appropriately invested in making it work.
3 – Plan, Plan, Plan
Great reorganisations can still result in toxic situations if they aren’t handled correctly, and quite often, badly handled reorg’s are only as a result of poor planning.
I’ll save you the ‘5 P’s’ line, but planning is everything and this really is one of those situations where you should try to plan for as much as you possibly can. Plan a sequence of events, create a communication plan, plan for unlikely but possible issues as well as likely issues. Plan for things going wrong and plan for ‘word getting out’. Plan for things not going to plan. Plan for workplace disruption and uncertainty. Plan, plan, and plan some more until you are comfortable that you have what you need to do a professional job.
4- Communication Is Key
Knowing what to communicate and crucially, when, is absolutely key so always try to manage the message from start to finish, but remember that people are people, and things that might affect them personally, will resonate with them on a more sensitive and deeper level.
People have a right to now what is going on around them in relation to matters that affect them, but as business leaders you also have an obligation not to create unnecessary hysteria. So create a communication strategy and put real effort into it – good comms is often the decisive factor in whether things have been handled well or handled badly.
If you envisage that the reorg is not going to result in any redundancies then get that out there straight away, and unfortunately if redundancies are possible, then treat your workforce with respect and be honest with them. If you are going to take any special measures to ensure that nobody’s livelihood is affected in any major way, such as ‘red-circling’ of salaries and so on, then alleviate those concerns early on, after all, what moral reason would you have for not alleviating these concerns?
5 – Treat everyone with respect
Things might get awkward, complicated, personal even, but always try to treat people with respect. Reorg’s are emotive and this often brings out the best and worst in people, but if you keep focused, remain dignified and treat everyone respectfully, then it will just be that little bit easier for all concerned.
6 – It’s not over when it’s over
The reorg is complete, reporting lines changed, new contracts issued, development plans in place, the last line on the communication plan is done so it’s over, right? Wrong. Most reorgs forget the post-activity evaluation although it’s really important. Post-activity evaluations will help identify any areas that need to be redeveloped or amended, and don’t take it personal if something you designed didn’t quite work during the implementation – organisations are fluid and reorganisations will need to be considerate of that. What is important is recognising that some changes and tweaks will always need to be required.
Finally, learning lessons during the evaluation will be massively helpful to you in the future – because it’s inevitable that you’ll probably need to reorganise again in the not-to-distant future.
I hope this helps.