Do you Have a Well Designed Organization

For most companies, organization design is neither a science nor an art; it is an oxymoron. Organizational structures evolve in fits and starts, shaped more by politics than by policies. Although most executives can sense when their organization designs are not working well, few take meaningful action, partly because they lack a practical framework to guide them. The authors of this article provide just such a framework; they present nine tests that can be used either to evaluate an existing organization design or create a new one. Four "fit" tests offer an initial screen: The market advantage test asks whether a design directs sufficient management attention to the company's sources of competitive advantage; the parenting advantage test determines whether the design gives enough attention to the corporate-level activities that provide real value to the company; the people test shows whether the design reflects the employees' strengths; and the feasibility test looks at constraints that may impede implementation. Five "good design" tests can help a company refine its prospective design. The specialist cultures test ensures that there's sufficient insulation for units that need to be different from the prevailing culture; the difficult-links test determines whether a design offers solutions for potentially problematic unit-to-unit links; the redundant-hierarchy test asks whether the design has too many parent levels; the accountability test looks at whether every unit has suitable controls; and the flexibility test ensures that the design lets the company adapt to change. Once a design is altered, the tests should be repeated. Organizational decisions are inevitably complex, and tweaking one part of the design may produce unanticipated consequences elsewhere.

This article is available to download in full from Harvard Business Online [Do you have a Well Designed Organization]

Goold, M. & Campbell, A. (2002) Do you Have a Well Designed Organization, Harvard Business Review, March, pp. 117 - 124