“We shall definitely get back to you!” she said with such a split expression on her face. This, to bring an end to another torrid call from one of the suppliers. I had to sympathize with her. I knew exactly what those words meant. She perhaps wanted to mean something like “The bosses who decide things around here are in a meeting, to determine which committee will discuss the formation of a task force that would approve your payment!” How she thought she hated all of them. But she needed not to hate. This was beyond any personal feelings. It was a problem of organizational structure. And I broke it down to her.
Structural design or organizational structure is a system used to define a hierarchy within an organization. It identifies each job, its function, and where it reports to within the organization. However, the chosen structural design may be ineffective in addressing the needs of a particular organization. Some consequences of structural deficiency are outlined below.
Decision making takes too long.
This slows down growth and puts an organization at a competitive disadvantage, particularly when you’re up against aggressive competitors and more agile organizations. While there are legitimate reasons for taking time to make decisions, if the slow pace is caused by lack of clarity as to who should make the decision or poor understanding of the vision and strategy of the organization, then these conditions inhibit action and indicate a lack of alignment.
Over consultation/ Too many meetings.
Meetings are necessary for exchanging thoughts and ideas, making plans, and reviewing progress. But organizations often are stifled by too many long and unfocused meetings that waste time and drain productivity. The underlying cause could be a lack of a clear definition of accountability. When it’s unclear who is accountable, then everyone is accountable, and too many people are invited to meetings. In organizations hampered by a strict hierarchical culture, functional managers find it necessary to be present in meetings or send their representatives to attend. As a result, meetings become too large and too long for effective action, and little progress is made when the meeting is over.
Creation of Silos/ Power centers
When departments within a company work in a way that there is no communication between them, they create silos. The lack of communication may be intentional or unintentional. Functional units are transformed into ‘parties’ that guard information and interests. Silos exist in organizations of all sizes and are an indication of misalignment.
Lack of clarity on responsibilities.
When responsibilities are not clearly defined, either no one is taking charge, or someone is taking charge who might not be the right person, or several people are fighting for control. These scenarios have varying effects on the bottom line of the company. When the results are good, people tend to compete to get credit. When the results are bad, people may engage in finger-pointing and assigning blame to each other. These are all symptoms of misalignment.
Lack of Empowerment.
If the lower levels in the organization don’t feel empowered to make decisions, then the company might be experiencing misalignment. The employees on the front line are the ones that sell the product, often deliver the product, and serve the customers. When they aren’t empowered to act and merely wait to receive instructions from their managers, customers suffer and customer loyalty is lost. This is an important symptom of misalignment. Lower levels should be empowered with a clear definition of responsibilities; they are your link to customers, with the critical role of helping your company align with the market.
Communication is selective.
If communication among people is not open and free-flowing, or if people are cautious about sharing information, the organization may be having structural alignment issues.
Lack of motivation
Lack of motivation leads to apathy. Apathy is a serious condition that can impact an organization’s success. It is the opposite of being unified in purpose, having a clear vision and a strategy for success.
When alignment is absent, people become confused as to where your organization is going, what they should do, and why. When people are left confused for too long, many revert to gossip, sharing opinions and news that could become distracting or destructive. Confusion and rumors are the byproducts of a misaligned organization.
Geoffrey Okochi is a career banker and experienced microfinance practitioner. He is well versed in operations management, business development, and credit risk management.
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
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