Most of the clients I work with are concerned about finding the best possible organizational model, given the particular strategic goals they pursue and the constraints they face.
Yet some also mention to me that they believe reorganizing the firm will be beneficial in itself.
There’s actual some support for this view in the academic literature (although I have not come across any empirical research).
The key idea is that complexity gradually increases in most organizations (see my earlier blog post about this topic). Over time, organizations tend to add units, layers, processes, and systems. Increasing bureaucracy means that things move slower. More complexity may also lead to more stress and conflict within and between sub-units of the organization.
In his books about complexity and design, MIT professor Nam Suh has explained that we can observe periodic behavior and reinitialization in many technical, biological, and human systems.
He uses airline scheduling as a case. Airlines can reinitialize the system by moving planes down during the night. All of the uncertainties that accrue during a day (delays, maintenance issues etc.) can then be terminated to ensure that they do not extend into the following day. Professor Suh claims that such periodic behavior is critical in order to avoid the build-up of unnecessary complexity.
Maybe a reorganization is a bit like this. I am not saying that the particular organizational model that one selects is irrelevant – in fact, I think it is critically important – but the mere act of reorganizing may have some positive benefits, too.
When we reorganize we break up established patterns. We regroup units. We place people into new roles – sometimes people whose skills and competence were neglected in the old structure.
Although any reorganization certainly has a cost, it may also help ensure that the complexity of the past is not carried forward into the future.