If you were to start over today would you choose the same management structure for your organization that you currently have? If your answer is no, are you willing to make significant changes? If you truly aren’t willing to move much beyond the status quo, then this article isn’t for you. However, if you are willing to make big changes, and really take a hard look at how you are structured, then read on.

Reorganization is a common occurrence in many organizations as the goals and personnel of the organization change. They might rearrange a position here and there or shuffle a few responsibilities from one area to the other, and that generally works fine. However, occasionally, it will be useful to dig a bit further into how the organization operates and analyze if there are major changes that need to be made to keep up with our ever-changing world.

“I don’t want to use the word ‘reorganization’. Reorganization to me is shuffling boxes, moving boxes around. Transformation means that you’re fundamentally changing the way the organization thinks, the way it responds, the way it leads. It’s a lot more than just playing with boxes.”

~Lou Gerstner—former CEO of IBM

Transforming your organization requires more than just taking the time to set a few goals for the upcoming year and then allocating people and assets to accomplish those goals. Transformation necessitates that an organization find time to step outside of the current reality and look at other possibilities and be willing to implement those possibilities if that is the right thing to do.

When might you undertake a potentially transformational look at your organization? There are a few key circumstances that might trigger a transformational planning process. Turnover at the very senior positions of the organization, major changes in industry standards or requirements, dramatic changes in need for your product or service, or new product lines or services are all valid reasons for taking a hard look. Additionally, maybe it’s just been awhile since you examined why you are doing business they way you are doing it.

The first step in the process is building buy-in from those who have control over the operations or governance of the organization. If there is not support at these levels for potential change, you are not going to get very far. The second step is to assure that everyone is on the same page with what the overall goals and mission of the organization are. What is the organization ultimately trying to accomplish and what are they unwilling to compromise to get there? Once those pieces are in place, it is time to look hard at what changes to structure, thinking, and operations need to happen for you to best meet the purpose and goals of the organization. Don’t start from status quo. Really look at the best way to do it and then figure out how you can get there or at least get close, within the confines that you have.

For instance, we recently worked with a client that had a new CEO. The current organization had operated under the same structure for many years based on the assumption that it could not be changed due to a variety of rules and restrictions that they did not have much control over. There had been constant conflict and service issues that the new CEO was ready to tackle. After some time working with the senior managers to make sure they were all on the same page with the goals of the organization, the team sat down for two full days and worked through a series of possible new structures that would meet organizational goals and could be done within the confines of the current rules and regulations. The product was a streamlined customer experience and a new way of doing business.

Recently, Align had the opportunity to assess our organization and how we want to operate. Over the years, we have continued to grow our consulting and program management services under a traditional top-down structure that was in place when we opened. When our COO retired, and in anticipation of our CEO retiring, it was time to examine more closely what the best structure was for meeting the needs of our clients and employees.

A few years ago, we reorganized into a structure where people directly reported to one person, but took direction from the full management team. As we began the process of looking at how we would operate after the retirement of long-standing leaders, we realized we had organically begun to operate more like a partnership structure. Thus, we put together a structure where the operations would be overseen by a managing director (we are a non-profit corporation) while strategy and leadership of the organization would be overseen by the full management team. This creates a need for more communication and coordination to keep us all moving in the same direction, but it allows all of us to work together better on our clients and provide the very best service possible.

Transformation is a scary thing, but if done correctly, can provide organizations with the opportunity they need to continue to build and grow their organization to meet the needs of their customers and community.