Build Wise


Technology can’t follow Organizational Design. It Enables it.

By organizational design I mean the very important activity of analyzing and tweaking teamstructures, processes, and management reporting. Leaders embark on these dangerous but high-impact initiatives to capture new opportunities, to mitigate emerging risks or simply to take slack out of the existing system.

There’s no need to write about why top performing teams continuously evaluate their organizational effectiveness. We all know this. What isn’t well understood is that technology enables a better, modern, organizational design. When technology is an afterthought major enhancement opportunities are missed.

Examples are best. Let’s say a leader, Sally Sogud, wants to rejig the way her project organization addresses permitting and land acquisition. This operational area is tricky and has substantial impact on schedule and cost. Worse yet, collaboration between schedulers, cost estimators, and regulatory teams is going from bad to really bad.

In response, Sogud commissions a crack analyst, Ron Dewright, to redesign collaboration and management processes. Last time Dewright did this teams were interviewed, flow diagrams developed and reporting templates produced. Right after launch performance tanked.

This time around Dewright decided to bring technology into the conversation. He grabbed existing data from the different groups and used it to mock-up a cross-disciplinary dashboard. Dewright used an iterative development process and short collaborative design sessions to tweak the dashboard. New insights were created and people realized some existing processes and status meetings were superfluous.

“I thought you needed my detailed schedule,” the planner remarked. “No, I never open it,” responded the regulatory manager.

The cost estimator complained, “It takes me forever to produce that scenario estimate for Sogud. I need more staff.” Turns out that was a one-time request from Sogud last year. It is no longer useful.

By mapping the disparate data sources into an online dashboard the team realized 45-minute bi-weekly coordination meetings got the job done. Much better than the previous weekly 90-minute meetings. The best part? Dewright didn’t redesign many processes. In fact, he removed processes and reduced a lot of team friction.

Now high levels of employee engagement and an occasional high-five can be seen in Sogud’s organization. Such are the possibilities of organizational design when technology has a seat at the table from the get-go.

Whether you are leading a team of a few people or a department of hundreds, thinking about how to enhance management effectiveness is time well spent. When in that frame of mind, remember that even small bits of technology can have substantial impact on defining the right outputs to measure, process design and team configuration.