Random Thoughts on Life and Work

February 19, 2014

Organizational Structure vs Fluidity

Filed under: Non-Profit — Darren Mullenix @ 11:53 am

I’ve been wrestling a lot lately with the concept of organizational structure. Some variation of the following question always seems to come up, “how do we organize our staff to optimize our output?”

The interesting thing is, there is usually no right or wrong answer. The answer needs to be based on the needs of the entity at the time. Ultimately, whatever arrangement is proposed will likely be built on concepts of command and control rather than on efficiency and fluidity. And this is where the frustration comes in. Our concept of “organization” requires a logical, ordered process with clear lines of responsibility and ultimately the perceived ability to control the result or at least control those who have impact into the result.

Structure vs Fluidity

Structure vs Fluidity

While I doubt we will ever be able to get away completely from the traditional organizational chart, what would happen if we begin to think fluidly? Staff move in and out of roles based on need, project description, skill sets, etc. At times they serve in multiple areas.

One of the things that I have observed over the years is that the reliance on command and control systems negatively impacts cross-channel/cross-departmental communications. If one department has need of a service from another department, there is no ability to ensure that the service or project is completed short of a control function or the good will of the department leader. Creating a fluid, cross-functionality group removes that tendency and provides enhanced communication, better scheduling and quicker response times.

A colleague once said to me, “Re-organization is a panacea for effectiveness. We need to look busy and in control so we re-organize the (XYZ) department.” In general I agree with the sentiment. Most re-organizations are predicated on a perceived need. And while homage may be given to “being reactive” or “being fluid”, the end result in most cases the still pays homage to command and control structures. Who will manage this group or that individual?

Let me issue the challenge for a new way of thinking. I dare you to throw out the organizational chart and start over. Think strategically and plan fluidly. Build teams to solve challenges or develop new products rather than structures to serve the HR and Payroll functions.

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