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The perfect structure – a costly obsession

We are mistaken if we imagine there is a perfect structure. Yet so many insist that if only we got the structure right then all would be well. In one organisation I was consulting with, they have changed their structure three times in two years and was about to implement a fourth one! But there is no such thing as the perfect structure. How we choose to divide up work in an organisation will always be full of compromises and challenges. The ways in which organisations behave tend to be deeper than just the structure. So even if we change the structure, the same issues soon resurface, simply in a different place.
This obsession with structure is costly. Every time a new structure is implemented, staff have to shift roles, learn new skills and relate to a different set of people in a different way. This is emotionally and mentally exhausting. It frequently drains vital energy away from the actual mission of the organisation. Organisations who are restructuring often become so inward looking that they lose focus on who they are here to serve. They are demotivating places to work.

Perhaps as leaders and consultants we are complicit in this. We want to appear able to fix problems. And structure is perhaps one of the most visible solutions. Perhaps we should turn our attention away from simplistic structural solutions and deal with the more fundamental and complex issues of people.

This week, let’s not think of the people merely as a workforce to conform to whatever changes appear right to us. Instead, let’s consider how we invest in people, helping them to realise their strengths and to move towards realising their potential.

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