Digital Business. Strategy First. Structure Last?

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Planning to redesign your business operating model to align to a new strategy? Maybe it’s a digital strategy that will change how customers will do business with you and therefore how your workforce needs to be organised.

Whatever type of change you are planning, you’ll need to feel confident that you get the new structure right so that it delivers your vision. 

Some business leaders dive straight in and change the structure before they have fully understood the way that they need to operate in future. It pays to take time to think the operating model through carefully before redesigning the organisation.

The organisational development industry is strewn with business models, jargon, profiling tools and the like, but I say keep it simple.

Here are my eleven ‘tenets’ that may help you deliver your goal:

  1. Focus firmly on how the business needs to operate in the future rather than the way you do business now.
  2. Develop strategy first then move on to designing the new operating model
  3. Fix structure last – not first!
  4. Each company is different. Do your research but don’t copy designs from competitors.  What works for them won’t necessarily work for you.
  5. Identify the current formal elements of the Operating Model such as standardisation, business processes, performance measures, technology and decision making authorities. Map how will they need to change?
  6. Don’t forget the informal influences such as culture and social networks. Ignoring them can derail your plans.  I’m pretty sure there’ll be a gap between where your culture is now and where it needs to be to support the new strategy.
  7. Consider the entrepreneurial elements that you want to build in to your new operating model such as innovation and learning that will enable growth.
  8. Run focus groups with employees to ask them what needs to change to make the new strategy work? Involving them will indicate to them that they are a part of future plans.  If you are planning a digital agenda your staff will more than likely be able to tell you what Omni-channels your customers will want to use!
  9. Target any obstacles that might derail the new strategy and build them into your transformation plan.
  • Is Leadership up to the mark?
  • Do you have talent shortages? Digital experts can be expensive.  Can you hire interim talent?
  • What regulatory constraints do you face?
  1. Ask lots of questions.  Does the work at your company require close supervision? What role does digital technology play? How much collaboration is involved? How far-flung are people geographically? How will the change affect clients and suppliers?
  1. Let it be known that you intend to lead the design of your structure from the top. You may employ a transformation team to help you but Employees will be much happier to go along with change if you are the figurehead.

Do this pre-work and you will begin to understand what leadership, layers, spans of control, talent mix, technology enhancements, culture change and decision making levels need to be integrated into your new structure.

It will also give you an empathy with and an insight into what it will take to win the hearts and minds of your people. After all, it is they that will execute the changes that your business has to make to succeed in an ever-changing digital world.

Ruth Gawthorpe is the owner of The Change Directors. She helps businesses to transform and ensures the process of organisation development and design is simple yet well thought through.

If you need any advice please do get in touch by email or give Ruth a ring on 07976 509 551.

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