5325139336_871c2e57b4“We trained hard – but it seemed that every time we were beginning to form up into teams, we would be reorganised.

I was to learn later in life we tend to meet any new situation by reorganising, and a wonderful method it can be for creating the illusion of progress while producing confusion, inefficiency and demoralisation.” (Petronius Arbiter, 65 A.D.)

Now, this isn’t suggesting that there isn’t a need to reorganise every now and then. It does signal the folly and pain of continual reorganisations dictated ‘from above’.

Another quote helps to put reorganisation into perspective:

“As tempting as it sometimes seem, you cannot reorganise your way to continuous improvement and adaptiveness. What is decisive is not the form of your organisation, but how people act and react.

The roots of Toyota’s success lie not in its organisation structures, but in developing capability and habits in its people. Anything unique about Toyota’s organisation structures…evolved out of them striving for specific behaviour patterns, not the other way around.” (Mike Rother)

i.e. develop the right environment, and a suitable structure will evolve….not the other way around!

It is far far better that you provide an environment in which:

  • the purpose of the system is clear (to you and those who perform it);
  • any/all ‘contingent reward’ management instruments have been removed;
  • your people are provided with visible measures of the capability of their system* (against its purpose); and
  • are allowed and encouraged to experiment with changes to their system, whilst observing the effects on its capability.

(* this is NOT numeric activity targets!)

In this way, it will be the people who will consider whether a change to the form of the current organisation is a valid countermeasure to experiment with and, from studying the outcome, whether to adopt, adapt or disregard this change.

The difference between:

  • management imposing a reorganisation on its people; and
  • the people suggesting, and trying, a change that will likely improve their system

… is the difference between chalk and cheese.

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