Leading Organizational Redesign with Business Architecture

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Owner, Frank Fabian Group
Frank Fabian is an entrepreneur, business architect and management consultant. He has worked in the IT industry for over 25 years in various architectural roles from commercial energy management systems to government logistics and supply chain systems. Frank understands the business side of an enterprise as a former co-owner of a manufacturing and retail company. Frank is an active member of the Business Architecture Guild. He is considered a big-picture thinker who can dive deep into a problem with a laser-focus to discover the cause and model an innovative solution. He has a proven track record of 149 successful projects and products that span a multitude of markets realizing evolutionary and revolutionary designs. Frank’s current start-up, the Frank Fabian Group, aids companies that want to apply business architecture practices to their real-world problems.

Reorganization of a business is not easy. Following the usual process of organizational design, you work to identify the current organization, note the gaps and describe a process for getting to the new organization. That sounds easy enough in theory, but implementing the reorganization is not nearly as straight forward. Asking stakeholders what the problems are usually only gets you symptoms. Identifying gaps is difficult because if the organization knew there were gaps, they would have fixed them. Then you have those who abhor change who believe their area of the business works fine – it’s everyone else’s fault.

Getting Started

Starting from a position of knowledge always helps to get started in the right direction. The idea of bringing in a team of consultants to figure out your organization and put it back together is not going to lead you to success. Just the amount of time spent figuring out what everybody is doing would take a relatively long time – you already know that something is not working or the business wouldn’t be reorganizing. That’s where a business architect provides value. Already having the blueprints including capability maps, value streams and organization maps puts you way ahead of the game.

Discovering Organizational Problems

When interviewing members of the leadership team, clients and staff, it’s important to know how they relate to the business – where they fit in the capability and organization maps. If one of the key problems is communications, which, let’s face it how many times is there not a communication problem, what type of communication problem? Is it that leadership doesn’t feel they are getting the information they need? Did leadership clearly set the expectation for what needs to be communicated? Is leadership providing the right kind of communication back to the staff? Does that communication rally the team or alienate them? How does communications affect your clients? I’ve seen all of these problems, even within the same organization. Using a combination of the capability maps and organization maps to discover where the communications are breaking down makes it easy to demonstrate the gaps.

Discovering Organizational Strategies

The next area that is crucial for reorganization is to spend time with the leadership to discover the organization’s strategies – current past and future. Understanding how that strategy was communicated, executed and evolved gives you clues as to what the organization can handle. I’ve used Enterprise Strategy Value maps and a lot of people were surprised to find out that that didn’t understand what the strategies were and what was important to leadership. Large swaths of the organization were working on projects that didn’t line up with the business’s direction. You will notice that I started by identifying gaps, then went to understanding strategy. This may seem backward to some, but becomes enlightening when you discover most gaps have nothing to do with organizational strategy and in fact most staff have no idea what is the strategy.

Discovering Strengths and Weaknesses

Knowing your capabilities is one thing. Knowing which are your core capabilities and the strengths and weaknesses of those capabilities is a whole new world for some organizations. I’ve been a part of quite a few Strength, Weakness, Opportunity and Threat (SWOT) analyses sessions. If they are done like a brain storming session, it will end up as a hodge-podge of ideas. When I run a SWOT, I try to target the items in the Enterprise Strategy Value Map and the Capability Map. It’s a real eye-opener when an organization realizes they don’t have strengths in the strategies they need to pursue and their supporting capabilities are stronger than their core capabilities. It’s not a surprise. As an organization grows, managers fight to protect what’s theirs. If the department they run is no longer needed, that team is out of a job. That fear of working oneself out of a job causes the manager to build an incredibly strong capability even though it provides very little value in advancing the organization’s goals.

Walking the Dog

I like to think of this phase as walking the dog. After everyone thinks the new organization is redesigned, this last step before launching can save an awful lot of headaches. The reorganization team creates a set of use cases that cover the major value streams. Working with each team, they walk their processes from start to finish calling out how materials, tools, product and information is passed among the players. Theoretically, the team should be able to traverse each value stream and define who is responsible, accountable, consulted and informed (RACI) at each stage. Most times someone realizes that a step or person was missed in the process. It’s always better to catch the problems before rolling the plan out. Don’t get me wrong, there will be errors in the plan uncovered as the reorganization becomes real, but with the proper due diligence, the errors should be pretty small.


The final topic that needs to be addressed is communication. The early stages of the reorganization will need to be with a relatively small set of people. Leaks in communication starts rumors, so be sure everyone on the team understands that and abides by it. As soon as a plan is made however, the communication has to start – communicate early, communicate often. Rumors will swirl. Productivity will drop drastically if people in the organization feel their jobs are threatened. Depending on the personalities involved, I’ve seen things get downright hostile. There will be agitators amongst the ranks. Address them quickly and disarm them. They can wreak havoc within the organization. If you can’t contain them, you may need to remove them. If there are people who will not have a place in the new organization, deal with them right-away and face to face. If you are not going to be keeping someone do it quickly and cleanly, don’t give that person the opportunity to poison the effort – sorry, that’s just the reality of business. You also need to communicate the fact that you had to let someone go to your remaining workforce. If they feel threatened, they may jump ship even though you value them highly. Always put a positive spin about the person you had to cut – this isn’t the time to air dirty laundry. Talk about the accomplishments they have made.

The Roll Out

The day is finally here. The new organization starts today. It’s not like you can just flip a switch and go home one night and the organization looks like it always did and Bam!, the next morning the organization’s all new. Usually, the roll out will occur over a period of days, weeks or months depending on the size of the organization. They key is to have a plan, work to the plan but adjust as necessary. Don’t protract the effort any more than it needs to. That’s how organizations fall back into doing things the same old way because nothing seems to be happening. It has to be driven – no faster than is needed to maintain control, but not so slow that you don’t see the change occur.

Wrapping up the Reorganization

As the reorganization rolls into place, necessary adjustments will need to be made to keep things running smoothly. The last step is to make sure everything is well documented. Are the capability maps up-to-date? Do we have all of our Value Streams corrected and each stage makes sense? Can we tell where communications should be flowing throughout the organization? Have we defined the right metrics for leadership to see the benefits of the new way of doing business?

Finally, the key piece to wrapping up the reorganization is just that, wrap it up. Nobody likes to be in a constant state of flux. That’s why planning and proper leadership before doing are so important. Minor changes will happen afterward, but try to stabilize the organization quickly and efficiently so your people can get back to doing their real work. Emotionally, change breeds a lot of stress and mistrust. The quicker you can lead your organization to stability, the better the emotional state of your team and the sooner your organization becomes the productive entity that the reorganization was meant to create.

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