How to Change Your Organization Without Losing Your Structure

May 2, 2016

One of the easiest ways to create chaos in your workplace is to announce a major change. Change is often necessary, but if it’s enacted poorly or too broadly, it can cause the well-worn structure of a business to break down almost completely.


As a business leader, you may dread change for this very reason. But you don’t have to. The key is understanding not only what needs to change, but also what must stay the same in order to maintain stability. Take these four steps to reach that better understanding:


1. Identify your organization’s four areas of focus.


In 2013, I was working with a U.S. Navy client that was going through reorganization on a national level. This client, like many military organizations, operated in a VUCA environment, which stands for volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. In other words, this client was essentially going through perpetual change.


During this time, one major component prevented this client and the many organizations like it from collapsing into utter chaos. This client knew and understood its tent poles, or the foundations that held a fluctuating operation together. The four pillars of any successful, high-performing organization are:



  • Finance: How do we look to our shareholders or taxpayers?
  • People: How can we improve and create value through our skilled talent?
  • Customers: How do our customers see us?
  • Internal process: What should we be best at?

By using a balanced scorecard approach, you can identify the four key areas of balance that will keep your organization running smoothly. Once you’ve identified these table legs of your organization, you can prioritize resources to maintain balance during times of intense organizational change.


2. Build a risk matrix for these four areas.


A risk matrix allows you to walk through certain types of risks and assess each one’s probability of affecting one of your balanced pillars. By performing this assessment, you can narrow your focus and determine which areas require immediate, prioritized attention.


If you try to redesign everything without conducting a risk assessment, you’ll most likely be blindsided after having missed a potentially fatal flaw in your attempts to keep each new cog turning. A risk assessment can help you ensure that, no matter what’s going on around you, you’re managing available resources for whatever operating environments you may encounter.


3. Apply the DMAIC model to your high-risk areas.


Once you have defined your focus areas, assessed potential risks, and prioritized your initiatives, you can apply process improvements to maximize value and efficiency across challenged resources during change.


DMAIC stands for define, measure, analyze, implement, and control. Using this methodology makes your organization’s most critical processes leaner by minimizing internal deficiencies so that each of your focus areas works at optimum efficiency.


4. For low-risk areas, “Don’t fix what ain’t broke.”


If any focus areas of your business aren’t at risk from the change at hand, keep your eyes where they need to be. The idea is to maintain as much stability as possible while still changing what needs to be changed. Your risk matrix should help you achieve the delicate balance between too much change and too much stagnation.


While readjustment will always come with inherent risks, it doesn’t have to cause disarray. By taking your time and understanding what really needs to change versus what should stay the same, you can lead your business to higher performance and weather any professional storm.

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