Google’s recent announcement anointing Sundar Pichai as new product czar highlights what many a CEO of organizations large and small often worry about: Will my current organizational structure support future business dynamics and growth? If not, when is the best time to make adjustments? And what is the best way to organize for critical change without disrupting current operational requirements that support existing customer satisfaction?
It’s been reported that this management reorganization stems from CEO Larry Page’s concern that Google could become less innovative in the future. Unfortunately, Google’s announcement may also reinforce the tendency for people to fixate on a cast of individual performers when thinking about organizational fixes. Of course, the performance of specific individuals can be vital to an organization’s well-being. But examples abound showing how even the most outstanding individual performer can be unsuccessful in realizing critical change.
Many of today’s companies have continued their obsession with outdated management theories and traditional organizational structures -- ones that overemphasize functional or day-to-day activities versus an integrated cross-functional focus on a continuous flow of strategic change.
So while paying attention to key individual performers at Google is interesting, the real opportunity for ongoing critical change lies with a broad-based paradigm shift.
If Page wants to see true advancement in Google's ability to procure continued innovation and positive change, he needs a clear understanding of how change dynamics and organizational structure relate.
Many organizations have allowed the lines of responsibility between day-to-day operational change to become divorced from strategic change. As a result the interrelationship between these two types of change becomes lost. This all too often has led to a failure to generate successful change even when an organization is trying a proven process to achieve it.
Strategic change comes about in response to internal opportunities for improvement and reaction to external influences that can threaten the organization. Just imagine, what Google would look like today if it did not strategically change over the years by addressing the emerging world of mobile apps when it did?
Operational change focuses on short-term changes that need to be executed in support of the customer. Think of the mind-boggling number of day-to-day operational changes that result from the processes at work within Google’s search engine system in order to satisfy an ongoing user base.
Therefore, it is critical, even at Google, that everyone in an organization understand that operational change and strategic change are equally important for a company to survive. This is true regardless of the individual peak performers and is best done on a continuous flowing integrated basis.
All CEOs, including leaders of large corporations such as Google, need to stop thinking of strategic change from the historical perspective of discrete initiatives and start recognizing it as requiring continuous systematic effort and focus. There needs to be a paradigm shift to an improved delineation of responsibility for operational and strategic change within the entire workforce.
Drive responsibility for day-to-day change as far down the organizational pyramid as possible. Ideally, the more operational change that can be done and controlled at the administrative and production levels, the better. These are the people closest to the customer who generally have the greatest ability to address daily opportunities and issues that arise.
Responsibility for strategic change must be an ongoing primary focus of leadership, from the board and executives all the way down to managers. Some portion of day-to-day operations might always require involvement by top managers. But managers must drive a continuous flow of strategic change through the organization.
To obtain true integration and maximum creative input from all staffers, a continuous communication loop must exist between those responsible for operational and strategic change. This needs to be bidirectional, providing key information on strategic change to those with a primary responsibility over day-to-day change and offering data on performance and new opportunities to those overseeing strategic change.
Google’s concern with maintaining an innovative organization will not be solved purely through installing high-powered executives. Nor will it be completely solved and it could even be hampered, through the further delineation of management focus between day-to-day operations and the big picture. Instead, all levels of management need to take responsibility for maintaining a continuous integrated flow of strategic change throughout the organization. That way, the innovation sought will become an automatic byproduct of everyone’s efforts.