When market changes, competition becomes more fierce or senior executives leave the company and new people join it is often time for a restructuring of the company or parts of it like e.g. single departments. This is the time where classic patriarchal management literature would suggest that one to three very senior and highly educated people from the highest hierarchy come together to draw the new world and present the glorious structure top-down to their employees.
In a world where highly educated people are to be found amongst all ranks and where the HR functions are struggling with the shift to an employee market (war for talent) the top-down approach might not be the wise one and may lead to attrition, frustration and severe drops in productivity.
I would suggest that we pick our best peers and people when there is an ask to restructure. We should communicate more and involve the people who are affected as far as possible. I’m saying “as far as possible” because I know not everybody can be involved and such decisions are generally treated as secrets until they are finalised and approved. But with some NDAs for overall trustworthy people their input will be highly valuable. And not only can they contribute from a content perspective to find the best new structure and restructuring process, they also become promoters of the change afterwards when it is announced as they have been involved as of day one and are highly committed that this is the best way forward.
Involving more people might be more painful. We have to consider more options and opinions and have more lines of communication. There are more people to bring on the same page and hence it is harder to reach consensus or compromise. I still think it’s worth the effort and the only way we can on the one hand gain promoters of the change so that the organization adapts quicker and on the other hand we avoid opponents of the change and saboteurs who try their best to prevent the organization from changing.
We might think we’re so much smarter and have more pull. But we should always be careful to affront people with a restructuring as nobody fights as hard and does one’s utmost to prevent the change as the people who are negatively affected. And what nitty gritty detail makes some feel negatively affected we should never arrogate to have sufficient knowledge of.