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Organizational Design: Time to update processes

Updated: May 22, 2020

The photo chosen for this post says it all. Many of us are fortunate to the point of having a job that allows us to keep our job and work from home. Social media and professional organization sources all have input and suggestions and guidance on working from your new home office (I say that with tongue in cheek for those of you who are sharing your 'office' with children and/or pets).

So how's it going?

With the sudden action being taken to decentralize workforce locations, it brings to mind something from a book published (originally in 1982) by Tom Peters and Bob Waterman, In Search of Excellence. In the book, the phrase "ready, fire, aim"* became a concept for business decision-making. In the book it had more to do with implementing business strategy after planning, planning, and more planning. I'm thinking it's still relevant. Employers have actually been forced to quickly ready and then fire the business changes--many overnight. Taking the analogy a bit further, it's time to exhale and take aim. Organizations were forced to throw everyone into the new way of working and organize after the fact. Now it's time to take a look at the "aim". Processes are central to this.

The approach to take is to compare current state to future state, or pre-pandemic lockdown (centralized workforce) to future state (since pandemic lockdown). Process flows and metrics need to be developed for both phases to verbalize and document both to find out what's working, where are the gaps, what are the costs, is it better to continue as decentralized or at some time (to be determined) to go back to business as usual (BAU). I should say the new BAU.

While this may seem daunting to undertake to document and define metrics for every business process, it can be prioritized. We have been doing this since ERP systems required processes to harmonize within and external to their automated processes. At a high level, we determine which business processes are most valuable, which are intended to generate the most revenue. We also look at which processes are costing us the most to complete. Get those current-to-future state processes documented, execute the change management to make the changes, and then proceed to the next priororitized processes.

I enjoyed this work most when implementing HRIS systems. It was the foundation of many business cases for my clients. It provided a picture of operations efficiency and inefficiency. For one major company I completed this work for, it was the first time key staff were in the same room discussing processes. It was enlightening for them, and beautiful for me to watch them learn what the right and left hand were doing. I saw how this process opened up lines of communication across departments and across major company divisions. In their case, they focused on five key processes which changed how every employee more quickly completed processes. It had a profound effect on perception of the business by employees, and led to increased energy and productivity.

Now more than ever, increased morale and positivity is needed. Human resources have been brave to take on this current way of working with minimal prep and communication of the change. Protect them and your organization's business by reviewing and adapting your organizational design, processes, systems, technology. Now is the time to get in front of it. Now is the time to have the picture of what the new BAU should be. Now is the time to take aim.


*Peters, T., & Waterman, R. H. (1982). In Search of Excellence: Lessons from America's Best-Run Companies. New York: HarperCollins. p119. Tom Peters, in Chapter 5, labelled this "do it, fix it, try it" and "a bias for action". He also credited an executive at Cadbury's for the concept of ready, fire, aim.

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