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3 stratagems for designing viable organizations

Updated: May 18, 2022

« Equilibrium is the profoundest tendency of all human activity »

Jean Piaget, psychologist, genetic epistemologist

Organizational design is the art of shaping viable organizational models allowing people to interact smartly within a coherent structure and through efficient processes to realize a unique mission. The design needs to empower the organization to perform along with providing adaptive capabilities enabling it's evolution. To imagine such design, where can we find inspirations?

The most useful designs can be found by simply looking around us. They are provided by nature and notably confined in….our bodies! Indeed, the human body is a complex system filled with examples of intelligent design that can be great source of inspiration for organizations.

The human body is composed of trillions of cells specialized and grouped to form functional organs. Biological processes link theses structures together and form a vital network allowing an organism to live and shaping it's capacities for interacting with it's environment. Now what happens when this complex living organism is encourage to interact with dozens of other complex living organisms within a formal structure in order to achieve a specific mission?

Welcome to an organization.

An organization is an open system that can just like the human body, face many challenges during it's lifespan. Performance achievement, staff turnover, client satisfaction, transdisciplinary collaboration, innovation, just to name a few. Organizational design can help by providing effective solutions in forms of models, structures, systems and processes to avoid those challenges, reduce pain points and leverage opportunities. The goal is to design a self-evolving organization able to realize it's mission in the most efficient and sustainable way.

Here are 3 stratagems that will give you precious inputs to imagine the optimal design for your organization:

Define your strategic gap

Your start point, your current state analysis. Your end point, your strategic objectives. In between, the gap that needs to be filled to ensure your organization survives and grows in the desired direction. Start by questioning your DNA elements. Is your mission statement up to date? Is it still aligned with your vision and meaningful in your ecosystem ? Once your organization's DNA is validate, you have a solid start for design. But before grabbing your paintbrush and canvas, you need to define your strategic objectives! Propel yourself in the future, 1-3 years from now and set clear goals for your organization. Here, dare to dream big and ensure you have a deep enough understanding of your clients and stakeholder's needs. Anticipate, be innovative and bold. Finally, for each strategic objective targeted, analyze the current state (point A). The gap between the now (point A) and the desired state (point B) will help you paint the transformational journey needed and design the right organizational components to reach your goals.

Put on your systemic glasses

Have a holistic look at your organization. Consider it as a system constantly trying to maintain stability through a dynamic equilibrium. Performing is being able to keep this dynamic equilibrium while facing change forces out of your control. Examine the human body's thermoregulation process per example, one of the key design that enables us to maintain a steady internal temperature - around 37 degrees. When your hypothalamus senses that you’re too hot, it sends signals to your sweat glands to make you sweat and cool you off. When the hypothalamus senses that you’re too cold, it sends signals to your muscles that make your shiver and create warmth. This is called maintaining homeostasis - the ability of an organism to keep the internal environment of the body within limits that allow it to survive. For an organization, the homeostasis indicators are of course different. Instead of body temperature we will focus on employee happiness at work, client satisfaction, project profitability, revenue, what is commonly referred to as key performance indicators (KPIs). These indicators are inputs to your organizational design. Chosen wisely and fed by accurate and up to date data, they will give you hints on how well your organization is performing as a system. If the indicators are not within the targeted limits, then there might be a problem of poor design within your organizational structure and opportunity for improvement.

Get a facilitator, an organizational designer !

See your organization with new eyes. Take a fresh look at your structure, by-pass the pattern recognition that are turned on automatically in your brain. Bring-in a different perspective by collaborating with a consultant that can help you design the right solutions for your organization. With a valuable tool box of best practices and a creative approach, the organizational designer will make you revisit your organizational components and improve the overall design of your organization to best suit your current and future needs.


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