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How to Pull Off the Most Successful Reorganization Possible

Follow this playbook to avoid the common pitfalls of a reorganization.

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"Reorganization" can be a word that inspires dread  spreading fear and anxiety throughout your workforce  but it doesn't have to be that way. Reorganization is a natural part of a company's lifecycle and shows a commitment to improvement. Unfortunately, most mid-level to senior members on your have likely been through a negative reorganization. It's time to reverse the stigma and help our teams approach reorganization with excitement. 

I’ve led successful reorganizations and have witnessed some transformations that have been nothing short of exhilarating. They are almost always hard, and can even hurt at times, but if it were easy, it wouldn’t be worth doing. 

Here are the common pitfalls leaders experience during the reorganization that you should avoid:

  • There is no clear leader of the reorganization.  
  • Those leading the reorganization have no prior experience with successful results.
  • Changes are made without intention or too fast.
  • The entire team does not support the reorganization, and politics are at play.
  • There is no plan for ,  or issue resolution. 

Should you hire a consultant to help you avoid such pitfalls? It depends on the talent and experiences of your leadership team. The criteria you should be looking for are expertise in organizational design, process creation, innovation, change management and leading complex strategic initiatives. 

Let's define what a successful reorganization looks like. Turnover, Glassdoor reviews and employee engagement are some things you can track. Low turnover is the number one sign of success. Some negative Glassdoor reviews are hard to avoid, as people don’t like change, so be prepared to respond to those. 

Use the following playbook when considering your internal and external options. Let it inform your decision-making and neutralize any potential bias that could sway you in one direction or another.

Related: How to Do a Reorganization the Right Way

Start with a design, as if beginning from scratch

To grow intentionally, I teach entrepreneurs to use a strategic vision for how their should be operating in an ideal state as a tool for decision-making. Just like you have a product or technology roadmap, an organizational roadmap can be a great strategic tool.

If you missed the opportunity to create this sort of design from the start, that’s okay. It will be more challenging because now you have biases due to knowing how your organization is currently functioning, but it’s entirely doable. 

How to achieve this is to pretend like you are starting over, building your business from scratch. What are the top functions of your organization? How do you grow, delight your customers, use technology, execute and run the business? From there, list functions two more layers down, and you’ve got a draft design. Just make sure those functions are aligned by the skill set of those performing the functions and also by incentives  meaning success looks the same for all sub-functions. Use something like draw.io or miro to visualize your design.

Related: The Millennial Takeover: How the Generation Is Shaking up the Workplace

Conduct a core-process analysis

Once you’re happy with your design, draft core processes for each of your top recommended functions. Describe how you perform that function in five to ten steps. Don’t overthink it; this should all be off the top of your head. You’ll also want to make sure it only includes steps aligned with your design  try to unlearn the way you currently run things.

To complete the analysis, compare your draft core processes to your current core processes. Do they match? Likely not, so where do they differ? Note all of these observations in an easy-to-follow working document that you can share with others.

Build buy-in from across your leadership

The best way I have found to build buy-in is to include key stakeholders in the process. So far, you have created your design and core processes in a vacuum, and now it’s time to validate your work. Pressure testing among your stakeholders, likely your leadership team, is a great way to validate and build buy-in at the same time.

When approaching these individuals, do so one-on-one so they feel important and comfortable sharing feedback openly. Share why you conducted this analysis  that this is an effort to grow with more intention and you need their help.

Share the work that has been done so far and ask them to review it within three business days. Tell them no decisions have or will be made until all leadership has had the opportunity to weigh in on the analysis. You may find that your leaders recommend a reorganization all on their own and you don’t need to convince them. 

Test and iterate on your design through a proof of concept

Once you have finalized some recommendations as a result of your analysis, it’s time to test those recommendations using a proof of concept. By now, it should be rather obvious where the greatest problem areas are or opportunities for reorganization. 

The beauty of a proof of concept is that you can communicate your intentions to the entire organization without any commitment in case things go south. This move will create confidence among your staff and further buy-in. 

Choose a small team to run the proof of concept that you can compare against the existing team structure. Set a timeframe, at least four weeks, and stick to it. Then be sure to properly communicate what the proof of concept is, why you are conducting it and the metrics for success to your entire organization. 

Related: Advertising Is Changing -- Know How to Lean Into the Change

Execution

Once you have confirmed a reorganization is in the best interest of your organization, it’s time to create a super detailed execution plan. The elements you should include in this plan are training materials; a communication plan; roles, responsibilities and expectations; and a detailed list of which tasks are transitioning where, when and to whom. 

I recommend posting all of these materials in your knowledge base or intranet, whatever system you use to share organization-wide information.

Plan for change management

Change is hard, and you will find yourself having to repeat communications several times. Plan for this in your communication strategy. Set the expectation that things will get worse before they get better. Mistakes will happen, things will fall through the cracks  and that’s okay. It’s expected and a natural part of the process. 

Plan for at least three months of change management. Here are some best practices for handling this period:

  • Have a face of the reorganization, a leader who is driving your communication plan.
  • Create an issue triage and resolution system.
  • Hold regular office hours for questions, concerns and open feedback.
  • Create a system to collect anonymous feedback. 
  • Find some champions of the reorganization across teams to keep the mood positive.
  • Post success metrics in a transparent place and celebrate small wins. 

There you have it: a playbook for how to pull off a successful reorganization. I hope you find it helpful  happy growing.

Katie Murphy

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Katie Murphy is founder and CEO of Expansion Group, a boutique consulting firm that helps SMEs grow with intention. For 14 years, she's helped hundreds of companies across industries set up or level up their operations. She is an expert in organizational design, operations, strategy and innovation.