When we are planning a reorganization, we know that the stakes are pretty high.
The changes we are planning may well be overdue. Implementing them will create a more effective organization and over time; lead to gradually improving operational and financial performance.
But the reorganization will also create uncertainty among employees. Some will question the need for change.
Some will resist moving to a new role (or be unable to). Those who are not selected for key positions may leave the firm. People may even threaten to sue you.
So when designing a new organization, there is a natural tendency not to share information too early about things that may create uncertainty: “Let’s wait until we have everything worked out before we go public with this”.
There are certainly some types of information that we should keep to ourselves.
We may not want to share every speculative idea we come up with about future options for the organization. And we should of course be careful about sensitive or confidential information. One example may be our assessment of individual candidates for positions in the new organization.
But keeping the process as such secret may undermine the purpose of the reorganization.
As I have discussed before, you need valid information about how the organization works in order to make the right decision about a future organizational model. You also need early involvement in order to start building support for the change.
I once discussed this challenge with Gil Steil. He is a leading expert on large group methods. I challenged him a bit, and asked whether it’s realistic to involve a broader group of people even when unpopular decisions need to be made. Here’s what he had to say:
The fear of discussing uncomfortable issues prevents some leaders from working with a large group.
But a part of my practice has been handling these things with representatives of all the key stakeholder groups in the room – with the clients that summon the courage to confront hard issues openly.
The people having coffee in the cafeteria in the morning somehow know months ahead of time when a downsizing is a possibility or when benefits might be cut.
So it’s a great relief to everyone when these feared issues are actually openly discussed – and involving people with lots of different perspectives can produce better ways of proceeding than what the leaders think up on their own.
Also, a well-designed meeting keeps the leadership in control of the discussion. When the discussion is underground (in the cafeteria) the leaders don’t even know what’s being discussed.
Think about that next time you close the door and lower the curtain to work out the new org. chart.