ASK OCE — April 4, 2006 — Vol. 1, 1 Issue 7

 

When times get tough in a bureaucracy, the first thing to change is often the organizational chart. Titles, divisions, and reporting structures inevitably shift from one box to another. The organizational chart, though, is only a model a static representation of a structure that gives little indication of how work actually gets done.

Organizational structure is certainly important, but it is only one component of what Booz Allen Hamilton veterans Gary L. Neilson and Bruce A. Pasternack call “organizational DNA.” In their book Results: Keep What’s Good, Fix Whats Wrong, and Unlock Great Performance, they identify four organizational building blocks:

Decision Rights: Who decides what?

Information: Who knows what? Who needs to know what?

Motivators: What objectives, incentives, and career alternatives do people have?

Structure: What does the organizational hierarchy look like?

Noting that structure is at the bottom of the list, Neilson and Pasternack explain:

“Structure is not the starting point; its the logical outcome of the choices made regarding the other three building blocks. While important and potentially crippling if designed poorly, structure is the capstone, not the cornerstone of most reorganization efforts.”

Extending the DNA metaphor, they assert that the various combinations and interactions of the building blocks determine the true character of organizations, and they identify seven common types of organizations:

Passive-aggressive: “Everyone agrees, but nothing changes.”

Fits-and-starts: “Let 1000 flowers bloom”

Outgrown: “The good old days meet a brave new world.”

Over-managed: “We’re from corporate, and we’re here to help.”

Just-in-time: “Succeeding by the skins of our teeth”

Military precision: “Flying in formation”

Resilient: “As good as it gets”

Download Chapter 1 of Results (PDF)

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