Organize the Org Chart

Bruce Wilson, Lawn & Landscape November - December, 2020

Bruce Wilson is founder and principal of Bruce Wilson & Company.

Org charts are essential components of business strategy. Yet, as companies go through different growth cycles, their organizational needs change while organization chart models remain unchanged. As a result, there can be a degree of dysfunction and things seem harder to control.

This is a symptom, not the cause. With business continuously evolving, nothing stays the same for long. Roles and responsibilities and shifting work structures can be disrupted during rapid growth – is that what is happening? Or is it something deeper?

CEOs are under increasing pressure to keep pace and structure, and systems and processes need regular fine tuning. No matter how well the org chart is set up, the root cause often centers on span of control and owners and subordinates question the number of direct reports.

In our peer group meetings, when owners bring this issue to the table, the conversation inevitably jumps to the number of direct reports. Unfortunately, this can lead to adding more hierarchical layers.

Many organizational problems are caused by poor performance. Before you start restructuring the boxes or adding positions, think about each position’s KPIs, and evaluate strengths and weaknesses objectively based on performance against them.

For example:

  • Crew Leaders: High-performing crew leaders seldom have jobsite issues. Strong crew leaders take a lot of pressure off production managers, and account or project managers. If a crew leader underperforms or if the position is a weak link due to turnover or not being able to find or develop new ones, the slippage trickles up the reporting ladder, overwhelming supervisors, managers and so on. Adding a new position or level does not fix the root cause if it is at the crew leader level.
  • Account Manager: The weak link can be at other levels, too. Ineffective account management can result in unhappy customers, renewal issues and have a detrimental impact on bigger, more rewarding opportunities for company growth. Is the account manager weak or is the problem weak crew leaders?
  • Turnover: High turnover compromises consistency and impacts an organization’s ability to run like a well-oiled machine. New people are learning on the job, there’s poor morale and new hires struggle to fast track. Turnover can create weaknesses at all levels.

Ask good questions to fix what’s broken:

  1. How does your company’s dysfunction, inefficiency, conflict or tension show up in your day-to-day?
  2. What issues make you feel that you have an organizational problem?
  3. Can greater functionality be addressed through training, upgrading, upskilling, DiSC assessment, culture improvements?
  4. At what level are your issues the most severe, and where are the problems originating?
  5. Are you happy with the performance of the people you have in key roles?
  6. If you fixed the weak links, would it solve the problem?
  7. How do your people feel about how things are actually working? They experience stress differently than people at the top.
  8. An obstacle to fixing the org chart is trying to work around people in the chart. You should try building the chart without names then put people in the slots. You will get a more functional org chart.
  9. How efficient is your current workflow? Do people have two bosses, or is reporting complicated?
  10. How can job design and requirements be modified to deliver greater accountability?

If, after going through this exercise, you feel that disconnects still exist, then it might be time to look more closely at creating fundamental change. Many times, org charts can look good on paper but don’t work in practice. And while these challenges may seem operational, they could be a byproduct of organizational decision-making.

You can improve the odds of company alignment by making sure your org chart matches your strategic intent. Every position on the chart should, ideally, support your goals and work together to achieve them.

Reprinted with permission, GIE Media/Lawn & Landscape magazine. Published November 2020.


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