Reorganization: what not to do.

Anantha Kancherla

Bootcamper at Woven Planet



"When you're designing the structure of an organization, it's really important to first understand the goals you are aiming for. Most projects have a pretty large number of dimensions to optimize for (e.g., UI integrity, code sharing, fundamentals such as reliability and performance and many others), yet organization that build them are an extremely simplified tree structures where one has to make binary choices when designing them at every node of that tree. So, how do you translate such complex multi-dimensional project needs into a single dimensional framework that is an organization?"

Actions taken

First, identify why you have chosen to focus on optimizing your organization's structure. There must be some aspect of the product or strategy that is not working that needs to be fixed. Since most products are built by a team of people, the reason something is not working is usually because of some communication breakdown among the stakeholders. Therefore the org structure and the subsequent processes that are being designed should optimize for those aspects right.

"The last time we had a major strategy reset, the strategy wasn't completely successfully thought through. Yet we quickly wanted to follow up by setting up an organizational structure to follow and implement that half-baked strategy. Around 30 people were hauled into the same room to design the organization, but the number of people made things far too complex. With 30 people in charge it was hard to decide on priorities with an already unclear mission, and even after a three-hour meeting we were unable to agree about what the structure should be."

"During this meeting, we decided to do a clustering exercise where we identified which teams had similarities and things in common. However, it was a really painful exercise for a large company to go through, due to the sheer number of teams the company had. By the end, we were still nowhere closer to solving our problems. Somebody even suggested that we all should design our own organization chart and then present it to everyone else. I realized this was getting crazy and like an auction. However, because I wasn't clear about our goals, I didn't participate, as I felt that if we didn't have clear goals it was better to leave the organization as it was."

"Three people did propose new organization charts. One was terrible, so the VP was left to choose between the other two. We all sat down to do a pros and cons analysis of the charts. But once again, the meeting wasn't productive, as it consisted of 30 people, all of whom had differing opinions. Next, because neither of the models were perfect we began designing new models. However, once we analysed them we realized they weren't quite right either, but the company decided to use one of them anyway."

"This resulted in reorganizations happening, but three months later more reorganizations occurred. This clearly points to the fact that the original reorganization process had been done badly."

Lessons learned

There are a few things I learned from this experience:

  1. "The right way to do a reorganization is to spend time clearly defining what your goals are, and start top down."
  2. "Pick two or three individuals who you think will do the best job because they understand the strategy and also have the necessary breadth of awareness. Never have 30 people working on a reorganization together. The new structure needs to be informed by a point of view, and having too many people involved will only prevent this from occurring."

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Anantha Kancherla

Bootcamper at Woven Planet

Leadership DevelopmentCommunicationOrganizational StrategyDecision MakingCulture DevelopmentLeadership TrainingFeedback TechniquesLeadership RolesTeam & Project ManagementDiversity & Inclusion

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