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Elegant Design

So what are some ways to maximize the chances of great organizational design? Here are 4 keys to success.

- Think like the customer
- Resist excessive department specialization (silos)
- Promote the most inclusive metrics possible
- Make money

Think Like the Customer

At times, managers (and even leaders) become too focused on the internal organization and develop ad hoc systems or processes based on isolated problems. Invariably, this slows down the product manufacture or service delivery to the customer but it covers the managers’ back sides.

The manager should not be in the organization just for a soft ride. Sure, risk management is a necessary evil but it should never be an excuse for sub-par delivery because you can bet revenue and profit will suffer as a result. This is the opposite of elegant design. Here’s a test.

When was the last time you visited your company web site or store strictly as a customer? How was the experience? How many extra steps did you find in completing your transaction? What annoyed you? What impressed you? How were you treated? Did you feel human or like a loose nut on an assembly line?


- At least monthly, test the major company services or products by walking through the maze to buy

- Partner with a few customers to streamline the purchasing cycle

Resist Excessive Department Specialization (silos)

Someone once said, “Customer Service is not a department,” and yet the natural evolution in many companies can be where individual work areas become kingdoms to themselves. Everything within that department or division is about that department or division, not about the whole organization.

In order to have elegant design, department silos must be taboo. Notice I said “silos.” It doesn't necessarily mean to go native in some sort of company commune but there must be healthy, working relationships between all areas. Yes, all. Let’s face it, customers can be mighty unpredictable at times. Excessive departmentalization increases the chances of an unhappy customer experience because the organization’s system cannot react let alone carry out the routine.


- Make part of department head ratings based on the ability to build and maintain healthy, working relationships between departments

- Periodically trade workers (temporarily) between departments to learn the other area as well as bring new perspective.

Promote the Most Inclusive Metrics Possible

One of the large obstacles management unknowingly (or knowingly) puts in front of progress is excessive, specific metrics. Most times a department that uses very many measurements just for its area will assure that department does not have the best interests of the whole company at heart – the narrow metrics promote a department mindset rather than an organization mindset. That’s not all bad but be careful.

The next problem this sets up is a department that will easily work at cross-purposes to other well-meaning departments who also have their overly-specific measurements. The sad yield is sub-standard customer service because of the designed-in conflicts and the poor client is left muddling through this mess (or not if he or she chooses a competitor). Don’t leave this area to chance or natural evolution.


- Convene a metric-meld session. Have the department heads meet, compare specific metrics and figure ways to make more holistic measures that honor the department as well as organizational needs.

- Hold an annual burn-the-metric meeting. Review all measurements and work hard to minimize the number to the very most important.

Make Money

Making money is still the most important measurement for a business. Yes, principle-centered behavior should be expected but without profit, a business will eventually cease to exist.

It is entirely possible to be a profitable and responsible company. It is completely reasonable to be a fun and productive organization. It can be harder to accomplish both ends of the spectrum at the same time but isn't it worth it to have higher employee satisfaction and great customer happiness? If you’re not making the level of profit that seems appropriate for your company and industry, take a hard look at internal design.

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About the Author

Mike Friesen, Leading Strategies
4829 W Reese Ave.
Visalia, CA 93277

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