Keep it Simple!

 By Alan Ward

The thought of conducting an organizational review shouldn’t give anyone reason for sweaty palms.  Unfortunately, it has that potential.

A quick survey of the topic can lead us to near despair:  infrastructure planning, internal architectures, process analyses, and blueprints for change… I mean, really, who knows what to do?  If you are a smaller organization, it is all the more daunting.  People in your office work for a living, and they are busy. There is little time to stop and take stock … and that’s precisely why you have to think about doing the organizational review in the first place.

The environment in which your organization operates is changing.  Sometimes the changes are thrust upon you but often they are more subtle.  You lift your gaze from the immediate and notice that members are asking for different kinds of value.  It they don’t want more, they now want better. What worked so well in the past now raises more questions than answers.   If you resist the urge to dive back down into the pile of priorities that are calling to you, you recognize that listening and planning are not mere guests knocking at the door.  They, along with change, may be your new best friends.

We don’t know our limits until we push past them.  It is as true for our organizations as it is for us as individuals.  We know what we have done, what we have done well or not so well, and what we stay away from doing.   We tend to keep on doing what we do.  We know our experience, but maybe not our limits.

If our desire is to continue to grow and regenerate our organizations and to create new forms of value, we need to consciously move beyond what we do day after day.  The big question is whether, today, we have the resources and processes in place to do that.  An organizational review can help you to better understand what your organization is doing (yes, there may be surprises!) and what may be required for continued success.

So, where and how does the work of an organizational review begin? As with most everything in life, it begins with awareness.  Ideally, you have responded to the changes in your environment with a look at your organization’s strategy.  The strategy or a plan for some kind of material change is typically the backdrop for the review.   Your strategy encourages you to build an operational plan to ensure that what needs to be done will be done.  The organizational review helps you to understand how work needs to be structured to make this happen.

Absent a change in formal strategy, a realization that you seem to be bumping into the same issues and roadblocks time and again can be the stimulus for the review.  What kind of roadblocks?  I would guess that a list might include missed (or mad scrambles to meet) project deadlines, a lack of follow through on new ideas, problems that you have seen before rising again, and maybe most frustrating is the time that you have to spend on things that you truly believe someone else should be doing.   The latter point alone can sometimes spur us to action!

Regardless of the specific impetus, once the opportunity for an organizational review becomes increasingly apparent, the hard part is deciding how to structure it.  Is an organizational review a big project or something that is done off the corner of someone’s desk?  The truth is that it need be neither.

The next few blog posts will look at structuring the organizational review.  Check out next week!



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