When I work with an organization, I look at a lot of things. Over the years, however, I’ve come to believe the fundamental design of the organization is the key to its success or failure. This is a little different than Organizational Development, or OD, as it’s known. OD is a deliberately planned, organization-wide effort to increase an organization’s effectiveness or efficiency.

Design is how the organization is set up.

Yes, it involves the organizational chart, but it’s how it’s put together that allows a company to thrive or wither. Think of it like StrengthsFinders 2.0, the work by the Gallup organization that posits that everyone has strengths that can be grown into talents. Strengths are the natural areas of ability that people thrive in if practiced or nurtured.

It goes something like this:

  • At the foundation, start with the values of the organization.
  • Then start looking at what the organization requires for its product or service to be sold and delivered profitably.
  • Next, you create positions with strengths identified that if developed into talents, would make the individual and the company successful.
  • This is done for each department. It is tested continuously until you have the right mix for the batter.
  • Next create the management structure that supports, nurtures and trains these strengths to tease out the talent. You also need to do the same for the management.

In its simplest form, it’s about having the right people on the bus, in the right seats (as author of Good to Great Jim Collins would say).

I’ve worked with a couple of companies in this position and it’s really thrilling to see the collaboration, lack of ego and the enormous amount of work being accomplished. What one client company had not been able to do in 20+ years, they have achieved in the last three. It’s like a new company. They have the battle scars to prove it, but the future is theirs for the taking – and they are having so much fun!

It’s what entrepreneurial companies are all about – trying new things, teaching, learning, collaborating, competing and at the end of the day, winning. All big companies were small once, and if you get the organizational design right, you’ll create a big company and launch people in the process. The design and people are the heart of the matter, the product always comes second. If you get the design right and the right people in the right positions your business will thrive!

Hi, I’m Mary Marshall.

My career has taken me from running a small business to coaching dozens of CEOs to now, doing what I love most: working with entrepreneurs to help them achieve their dreams. I believe that the people I coach know the answers to the challenges they face, and I’ve found the best results come when I ask the hard questions to help them clarify their own perspectives. To learn more about my work as an executive coach, visit my bio.

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