Bad Company Structure Equals Bad Strategy
3. How do we ensure there are no
turf wars between the different departments?
Specialists say there is no structural solution here, it's all about people.
Turf wars are all about grand ambition and envy, very human traits.
"I'm not sure structure can deal with it," says Dow. "It depends on the
nature of the people you have to head the units. If you have a person who
heads the units who is focused on building his empire as big as he can and
being a yes man upwards, no matter what's going on, he will subvert the organisation no matter what structure you have in place. You have to put
more emphasis on the hiring and recruitment process than the structure."
Barolsky says internal frictions are more about the organisation's culture.
The problem, he says, is that many managers get culture and structure mixed
"Some organisations try to fix a cultural problem with a structural
solution. They change their structure and they still have a cultural problem." he says. "Don't expect that changing structure will fix your
culture. They are ignoring the underlying values and behaviour that are
driving the politics. Structural change can help disrupt things and bring in
a new era. It can affect disruption and change which can lead to cultural
improvement. But I often fear that people use it as an excuse not to face
the truth and deal with some of the deeper behavioural issues of the leaders
That does not necessarily mean ignoring the structure and focusing on the
culture. You need to tackle both simultaneously.
4. When decisions are made who needs to approve them?
Dwyer says he sees many organisations which have structured their approval
processes in a way that ensures it takes forever to get anything done.
"They are usually built from top down. Quite often you end up with
signature-collecting processes," he says. "So you have someone at supervisor
level who wants to do something and they send it up to their manager, who
sends it up to another manager. But when you tell them you had three people
below you reading this document, what are you adding to it and why does your
signature have to be there, they will say because it needs my authority.
They usually can't tell."
He says a better way to do it is to devolve the decision as low down the
food chain as possible. Giving subordinates at the coal face and close to
the customer more decision-making power speeds things up and helps implement
"Usually in most organisations I come across it's shoved up too high and you
end up with processes where it took weeks to get the signatures."
Devolution, with appropriate checks and balances for risk, is the way to go.
The fundamental starting points are the visions and strategy. The structure
comes after that, it is simply the tool to implement it.
But without the structure there can be no strategy. Similarly, a poor
structure will result in bad implementation of strategy.
Barolsky sums it up neatly: "The structure should follow strategy, it should
be an enabler which helps you achieve your vision."