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Five Common Issues with Organization Design Projects


Five Common Issues with Organization Design Projects

Stephen Redwood shares an article that was written in response to a common question clients ask about organization design projects and why they go awry.

It’s a funny thing, but when it comes to the subject of organization design the first question clients usually ask me is: “How can we not screw this up?”

Not unreasonably, clients recognize how unsettling these projects can be. They know that, too often, the results can fall short of expectations, so they want to minimize disruption and increase the odds of success.

Here’s the single most important thing a career of designing structures has taught me: it’s not the process that will trip you up, it’s the human element. And humans tend to repeatedly fall into the same traps, despite the lessons of history. Here are 5 of the big, and avoidable, ones:

#1 “Men are Moved by Two Levers Only: Fear and Self Interest”

Napoleon Bonaparte knew a thing or two about human nature. I sometimes reflect on this when clients allow a process to unfold almost to the end of a project and then, just as final decisions are being made, begin furious debates over the pros and cons of various details. What brought about this sudden sharpening of interest? They start to realize the potential impact of the proposals (on themselves!) and spring into action trying to reshape the outcome according to their worldview. Then, having more than runout the original timeline, they expect overnight implementation, as if the rest of the organization will have no objections and behave any differently.

Antidote: Ensure the most senior person (e.g. CEO or head of BU) is actively engaged from the start with a commitment to generate and maintain attention. Set up a small core group with the legitimate power to make final decisions where no consensus is forming.


Key points include:

  • What The Eye Doesn’t See The Heart Doesn’t Grieve Over
  • Beware Butterflies
  • Broken Rearview Mirrors


Read the full article, How Do Organization Design Projects Get Messed Up?, on