The productivity of a work group seems to depend on how the group members see their own goals in relation to the goals of the organization. – Ken Blanchard
When was the last time you took a hard look at the effectiveness of your organizational structure? While most organizations have one, do the people in your organization know it or understand it? The time may be ripe for you to take a fresh look at yours and consider these six ways to enhance it.
Empower your leaders
Regardless of what your present organizational structure looks like its functionality should empower its leaders. Successful leaders thrive in an organizational structure that fosters creativity, unleashes potential, and doesn’t stifle progress. This happens when less emphasis is placed on hierarchical structure and more emphasis is placed on empowering the right people in the right places. Empowerment elevates the performance of leaders and encourages behavior that earns the respect of followers. This respect allows leaders to build partnerships within the organization that encourage open, two-way communication and foster a sense of loyalty.
Ownership occurs within your organizational structure when there is buy-in from the bottom up and system wide. If ownership is not shared then the structure is self-serving and not empowering. People want ownership and sense of belonging to a great cause. Without ownership that can’t happen. Ownership holds everyone on the team accountable for their decisions and actions. In order for employees to take successful ownership of their work they must clearly understand expectations. They must also have milestones where progress is evaluated. Ensure that employees are serving in the right roles, give ownership, and celebrate their victories.
Organizational structures don’t define you, you define them. As such, your organizational structure should not be a document of containment but a blueprint of open boundaries to grow and succeed. It should not box people in but should free them to do what they do best. As your organization grows so should your structure but in a way that facilities your growth and not in ways that impede it. Provide employees with the opportunity to be more flexible about how, when, where, and with whom the work gets done. Employees want to be involved in designing and managing their work tasks. Offer employees choices and the ability to personalize work. Allow employees to share ideas and be involved in the implementation of these ideas. As you expand your borders, provide opportunities for employee growth and focus your energies on the results that really matter.
Employees need to have a level of control over their work tasks. A top-down organizational structure hinders the ability of decision-making at the lowest level possible. Decision making on the front-lines allows issues to be identified and addressed quickly. In a lateral structure, employees understand where they fit and how they impact the success of the organization. A flat organizational structure allows employees at all levels of the organization to be empowered and given autonomy over their work. This less rigid structure allows for flexibility and promotes a feeling of equality and inclusiveness. When lateral thinking is put into action it allows for swifter response times that can translate into happier customers, gratified clients, and a healthy bottom line. Lateral thinking is empowering, efficient, and very effective.
The support needed to successfully achieve organizational goals is gained by developing relationships based on trust and commitment. The organizational structure can enhance or impede factors such as open communication, management follow-through, accountability, consistency, and concern for employee interests all of which foster a sense of trust. Therefore, building trust is a deliberate action, not something left to chance. It happens as relationships are given priority, it grows in an atmosphere of community, and it pays huge dividends when everyone is engaged. Without trust you have nothing. With it your potential is unlimited.
Find common ground
Employees prefer to work with others they see as similar to themselves. When the organizational structure provides an inclusive environment with common goals a sense of community is developed. Finding common ground helps in the successful pursuit of these shared goals. The organization must foster a shared purpose so that employees understand why the organization exists and why they do what they do. Finding common ground is a fundamental condition of your success. You need to define, share it, but most of all; your team needs to own it. Common ground is your path forward.
Does your organizational structure support the goals you trying to reach? The continued success of your organization is dependent on your ability to continually evaluate and enhance your organizational structure. You can enhance your effectiveness by taking these steps to ensure that your organization is ready to succeed in the 21st century.
© 2014 Doug Dickerson and Elizabeth Stincelli
* Elizabeth Stincelli is passionate about recognizing and inspiring the leader in each of us. She is the CEO of Stincelli Advisors where she focuses on helping organizations engage employees and improve organizational structure. Elizabeth holds a Doctor of Management degree with an emphasis on organizational leadership. Learn more about Elizabeth by visiting her websites, www.stincelliadvisors.com and http://lizstincelli.wordpress.com/