In an organization design process, one needs to identify the key business drivers, understand interfaces and processes, and create new ideas for resolving key dilemmas.
The management team rarely possess a complete picture of how the organization works and rarely have ready answers to all the challenges that the organization faces. In other words, some kind of participative process is needed where one can generate insights from a larger group of people.
But how do you involve people in such a process?
Together with another independent consultant I currently assist an oil services firm in reviewing their organization and developing alternative organizational models.
As part of this process, we recently arranged a workshop in London for the 30 top managers of the company. We started the workshop by providing feedback from interviews that we had conducted, talked about the challenge of cross-unit collaboration, and discussed the design criteria that should guide the selection of a new or adjusted organizational model.
We chose a “low tech” approach for this workshop, in line with the interactive methods recommended in the classic book Planning under Pressure by Friend & Hickling. In other words, limiting the use of PowerPoint and electronic aids, and instead providing sheets of paper and pens to groups and asking them to stick the paper sheets on the wall to display the results of their discussions.
We tried to avoid the traditional plenary sessions, and instead asked the participants to walk from one “group station” to the next. On the picture above, participants study the outputs of one group discussion posted on the wall.
The workshop generated a number of ideas that we will now follow up by engaging people in small working groups. For example, one important topic is to consider the business opportunities and operational challenges of creating a new standalone business unit in the company.
The feedback from participants was very positive, in particular, they valued the open and honest discussions and the opportunity to engage in long term, strategic thinking.
At the same time, we noted some improvement areas that we need to address next time we arrange a similar workshop, for example, too little time was allowed for some of the topics, and a couple of issues could have been better introduced and explained prior to the group discussions.
But overall, it was a stimulating experience that produced important ideas and that also created a sense of shared ownership for the process.