Archives for posts with tag: Organizational Design

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Enterprises change at a breathtaking pace, reorganizing too often. Wasting a lot of time, energy, money and morale in the process. in the middle of a market tornado, enterprises try to reach a “stable state”. We would argue, enterprises should strive to reach a dynamic state. A state where adaption doesn’t equal reorganization. Such an organizational design is already being utilized.

The Multidimensional (MD) Design

The Multidimensional Design was originally developed at Dow Corning. It eliminates the need to reorganize when faced with a significant internal or external change.

The need to organize comes from the need to divide labor. To organize is to divide labor among different individuals or groups and to coordinate their activities in such a ways as to obtain a desired output. The more divided the labor, the more coordination is required. There are only three ways of dividing labor, meaning only three types of organizational unit:

a)    Functionally defined units (Purchasing, R&D, Industrial Relations, etc.)

b)   Product- or service-oriented output units (the magazines of a publishing company, the coffee of Starbucks)

c)    Market- or user-defined units (units defined by the geographic areas they sell in)

Most enterprises have all three types of units. Their importance is often ordered in the structure of most organizations. If product uniqueness is most important, then product-defined units dominate. If costs are the primary concern, functionally defined units rise to the top. All reorganizations involve changing the relative importance of the three criteria used in dividing labor, that is, changing the organizational levels at which units of the three types appear.

If units of all three types are established at a particular level of an organization, as their relative importance changes all that is required at that level is a reallocation of resources among them. Their reorganization is not required. Therefore, if the three types of unit are established at every level of an organization, the need to reorganize at any time is completely eliminated. Units of any of the three types can be added or subtracted without requiring reorganization; the organization’s structure remains the same.

Conventional representations of organizational structures do not indicate the interactions of the units. Three-dimensional representation of an organization makes it possible to show explicitly the interactions that should or do take place between units.

Product- or Service-Define Output Units

In a multidimensional organization, product- and service-defined (output) units consists of a management and only a small supporting staff, but no other personnel, and no facilities other than what is required to house this small staff of people. They are responsible for providing or arranging for all the activities required to make their products and services available to customers. These units obtain income from sale of their products and services. If they require more capital than they generate or accumulate, they can apply for it from a higher level of the organization. They are expected to treat such funds as loans or investments. They must pay for their use, one way or another.

Function-Defined Input Units

Units whose outputs are consumed primarily by other internal units are functionally defined , or input units. Functional units are often divided into two types, one defined as “operations” and the other as “service”. Operation units are ones that have a direct effect on the output (operations) of the organization, for example, manufacturing, maintenance, and purchasing. Service units have no such effect; they affect the nonoperational behavior of other units; they affect the nonoperational behavior of other units. Functional units are free to both purchase whatever they need and to sell whatever they produce or provide, either internally or externally. Their purchasing and selling decisions are subject to intervention from above and to compensation for such intervention when appropriate. They receive the income that their sales generate, and they pay the cost of whatever they purchase.

Market- or User-Defined Units

Market units – units that are defined by the users by the users they serve – have two complementary functions. First, they sell the outputs of any other unit in the organization that wants to use their services, as well as selling outputs externally. Second, market units also serve as advocates of the users in the markets for which they are responsible. They should not only represent the company in the market, but also the market in the company.

Market units evaluate the activities and outputs of other internal units from the point of view of potential and actual users of the organization’s outputs, who are outside of the organization and are affected by these outputs. For that reason, market units operate as consultants to the executive office and other unit heads.

Performance measures

A uniform, explicit, and operationally unambiguous measure of performance – which incorporates some function of the amount of profit generated, for example, return on capital employed – can be applied to units at every level, including the executive office. This makes possible comparison of the performances of units at all levels and discourages make-work and bureaucracy. However, profit is by no means the only important performance characteristic. Recall that in socially-systematically conceived organization, development of the organization, its stakeholders, and its containing system are its overriding objectives. Although profit is necessary for corporate development, it is not sufficient.

In our next installation, we discuss a plan being a system of solutions.

Previous installations can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6 and Part 7, Part 8, Part 9.


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“Vision is the art of seeing what is invisible to others.” – Jonathan Swift

Every enterprise needs to set Big Hairy Audacious Goals. These Big Hairy Audacious Goals are your limit. It’s an idealized goal that might never be attained, it’s your Moon Landing. We will talk later how to reduce the gap between enterprise reality and pie in the sky ideal. But, forget about limits for a while. This is about expansive thinking: no borders, no limits, no boxes.

Planning for Pie in the Sky includes:

  • A clear vision of your enterprise
  • A mission statement, expressing the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals
  • Specific features the enterprise needs to have to achieve the goals
  • A pie in the sky design of the organization

A clear vision of the enterprise

Corporate visions are usually developed by executives, not involving all stakeholders. While developing the vision by few might be more efficient, the vision needs to be shared by all stakeholders in order to be pursued effectively. Most visions define what executives want the enterprise to be in 10 years or so, often forgetting what these executives want the enterprise to be right now. I would argue, it’s imperative to develop a vision that communicates the ideal design of the organization for the here and now, assuming the organizational design will be able to handle changes (and there will be many) without actually forecasting the future. Instead, organizational designs have to incorporate contingency planning.

I have all the plastic in the world but I still carry a few bills with me all the time. I don’t forecast a cyberattack on the banking system, I don’t forecast a massive quake in LA that won’t allow me to access my account for weeks. But all these things and other scenarios are possible. And I would like to be prepared for it.

A Mission Statement, expressing the Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals

Most mission statements are borefests: platitudes of epic proportions. A real mission statement should answer the following questions:

  • Why does this enterprise exist?
  • What are the aspirations of the enterprise?
  • What does the enterprise do to succeed?
  • How will the enterprise pursue its Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals?
  • How will the enterprise serve each stakeholder?
  • What makes the enterprise unique?

While formulating the mission statement, stay away from empty sentences/words, corporate speak and anything your best friend outside of your expertise doesn’t understand.

Specific features the enterprise needs to have to achieve the goals

Whenever we develop a website, the first step is to sit down with all stakeholders to go through their wishlist: What features does each stake holder would like to have? Enterprises have to go through this exercise as well to design their ideal organization.

This can be a laundry list of thousands of items or just a minimal document that describes the structure of the enterprise, corporate culture, management style, employee expectations, high-level ideals of products/services, etc. Each ideal enterprise design is different and the features list will reflect its uniqueness.

A pie in the sky design of the organization

Imagine, your enterprise stopped to exist last night. Nothing else has changed: Technology, laws, regulations, taxes, etc. The environment and systems that surrounded the old enterprise still exist and they haven’t changed. Just your enterprise is extinct. Start designing your new enterprise.

What kind of enterprise would you design if you could start from scratch? How would you design it so the enterprise is capable of being improved continuously from within? We’re not asking you to create Utopia, a perfect enterprise. Instead, your pie in the sky design should incorporate what you want to the organization to be right now. While you discuss these ideas with stakeholders, many new ideas will evolve and creativity will flow freely. This process of collaboration is often the most important product of this step to transform your business. Enterprises need to make sure that during this step self-imposed constraints are kept to a minimum. Stakeholders should not be concerned with feasibility, budgets or implementability. Reminding them that the enterprise was destroyed last night might help limiting those constraints. Keep dreaming.

Next, we will discuss gap analysis and gap planning.

For your reference, the first parts can be found here: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4.