Frequently Asked Questions About Our Consulting and Design Process

Read answers to the most common questions about organizational design. We want you to understand our methods and what it will take for you to create a high performing company.

What is organizational design?

As companies grow and the challenges in the external environment become more complex, business processes, structures and systems that once worked become barriers to efficiency, customer service, employee morale and financial profitability. Organizations that don’t periodically renew themselves suffer from such symptoms as:

  • Inefficient workflow with breakdowns and non value-added steps
  • Redundancies in effort (“we don’t have time to do things right, but do have time to do them over”)
    Fragmented work with little regard for good of the whole (Production ships bad parts to meet their quotas)
  • Lack of knowledge and focus on the customer
  • Silo mentality and turf battles
  • Lack of ownership (“It’s not my job”)
  • Cover up and blame rather than identifying and solving problems
  • Delays in decision-making
  • People don’t have information or authority to solve problems when and where they occur
  • Management, rather than the front line, is responsible for solving problems when things go wrong
  • It takes a long time to get something done
  • Systems are ill-defined or reinforce wrong behaviors
  • Mistrust between workers and management

Organizational design is a step-by-step methodology which identifies dysfunctional aspects of work flow, procedures, structures and systems, realigns them to fit current business realities and goals. By design we’re talking about the integration of people with core business processes, technology and systems. A well-designed organization ensures that the form of the organization matches its purpose or strategy, meets the challenges posed by business realities and significantly increases the likelihood that the collective efforts of people will be successful.

How long does the design process take?

We’ll make that decision together as we create a project plan. However, a good rule of thumb is four months from the start to approval of design recommendations by the steering team. Then you can expect a few more months of work by the implementation team as they create detailed implementation plans and flesh out the details of the new design. Of course, once you have gone “live,” you’ll continue to monitor progress, tweak various aspects of the design and even provide leaders and employees training to succeed in the long run.

What kind of results can we expect?

Most companies experience significant improvements in their most important key result areas—customer satisfaction, operational efficiency, productivity, profitability, employee engagement, and so on. Plus, you’ll find that your results continue to improve as employees become more positive and engaged in their work. To see examples of results from other companies, click here.

What is the senior leadership team’s role in the design process?

A senior leadership team (known as steering team, for purposes of the design process) must own or be willing to sponsor the design process. Our experience is that without the active sponsorship and meaningful involvement of the senior leadership team, the chances of success will be limited. Working closely with a Center consultant, the senior leaders will:

  • Accept ultimate accountability for the success of the design process
  • Develop and communicate a case for change to everyone in the organization
  • Establish a charter to guide the change process
  • Make resources available to support the process
  • Create a clear vision and business strategy for the future (with consultants)
  • Clarify the business model and macro-organizational design (with consultants)
  • Gain support from key stakeholders and keep them informed of progress
  • Be involved in information-sharing sessions throughout the process
  • Model the principles and values of high performance
  • Ensure that a significant number of people are involved throughout the process

How much time is required from the senior leaders?

The amount of time depends on the scope of the project, which is determined as we co-create the project charter. Generally, however, you can expect the senior leaders (known as the steering team for purposes of the design project) to spend up to about ten days from kick-off until completion of design recommendations (approximately four months) and then one to two days a month during the transition and implementation phases.

One factor that can increase this number of days is the need or desire of senior leaders to examine and improve their “leadership process” or way in which they work together to provide leadership to the organization. We help senior leaders better define their shared core work as well as how they accomplish that work. We sometimes help them better define the leadership or management philosophy of the organization, in other words, their expectations about the attitudes and practices of leaders at all levels, organization-wide. These initiatives will add anywhere from three to five days of leader time to the project.

How much time is required by other people in the organization?

Employees will be invited to participate in the process at different points. For most, this will be minimal, perhaps as part of a focus group, large group conversation or maybe to complete a survey. The employees that will give most of their time are design team members, a cross-section of about 12 people from throughout the organization, representing different functions and levels of the hierarchy. These individuals usually spend anywhere from 30 to 40% of their time during the chartering, strategy, assessment and design phases.

What is the role of the design team?

A design team is a multi-disciplinary group of people, selected and commissioned by senior leaders, who manage the details and logistics of the design process. (In small organizations, the senior leadership team may fill many of the design team responsibilities.) Under the guidance of the consultants as well as steering team, the design team conducts an analysis of the current organization and develops design recommendations which they present to the steering team for adjustment and approval. We then form an implementation team, made up of the same number of people (half from the original design team) who will manage the transition and implementation phases of the project (two to three months). The major responsibilities of the design team are the following:

  • Plan and participate in analysis and design events
  • Collect data, organize, refine and summarize data regarding the current state of the organization
  • Study and make design recommendations to senior leadership and the rest of the organization
  • Help senior leaders keep people informed about the status of the design process, developing communications plans and holding regular up-date meetings
  • Support implementation following design
  • Model collaboration and team principles throughout the process

Can you explain your overall philosophy and consulting approach?

Our consulting approach is through partnership with our clients. We don’t set ourselves up as “experts” who will study and then tell you how to run your business. In fact, we believe those closest to the business understand the business (whether whole enterprise, business unit, department or team) and need to be involved in decisions that affect their future. Our role is to provide methodologies and facilitate a process by which business leaders and employees can make sound decisions that will improve how they function.

Of course the specifics of our methodology depends on a client company’s needs and expectations. However, if doing redesign, then our best practices follow these steps:

  • Establish philosophical alignment between senior leaders and consultant(s).
  • Create a charter that includes case for change, desired objectives of change effort, scope, principles to guide process, parameters (non-negotiables, Budget, time-frames, resources, etc.), roles and responsibilities of leadership of project, accountabilities, etc.
  • Do an environmental scan of the changing landscape of the external environment and the challenges to be overcome and opportunities to take advantage of.
  • Create or update a strategic plan to position the company to successfully compete as well as build long-term competencies. The plan includes how the organization will position itself in the marketplace and also the strategies it will employ to grow the business.
  • Clarify the organization’s business model, that differentiating and value-adding work around which to build competencies.
  • Do an internal organizational assessment of core work processes, resources, structure, people, systems, culture, etc. to determine strengths and weaknesses and areas of misalignment to strategy.
  • Redesign (to the extent necessary) core work processes, structure and systems, to align to the strategic plan.
  • Align human resources to the strategy and design through continued development of human resource systems as well as implementation of training and employee development programs.
  • Adjust and continually improve.

What are the prerequisites of a successful engagement?

  • Senior leadership sponsorship and commitment
  • Clearly developed case for change
  • Well defined outcomes
  • Management works as a cohesive team
  • Business strategy is aligned to market demands
  • Changes cut across boundaries and hierarchy
  • Several technologies are integrated within
  • A clear structure and methodology is followed
  • Take into account people and culture as well as technical aspects of business
  • People are aligned to a common vision
  • Current strengths are preserved and built upon
  • People at all levels are developed and involved
  • Processes and systems are streamlined to strategy and values

What is your role, as consultants, in the process?

We’re experts in building collaborative, high performance work systems. We provide a change framework and methodologies and facilitate many of the meetings throughout the design process. We work closely with senior leaders, the design team and often other internal consultants, trainers or facilitators with whom we partner in leading the process. We may deliver some leadership and team training or will certify your internal resources in our methods or training materials. Following are key consultant responsibilities:

  • Provide orientation and training in high performance work systems and the transformation methodology.
  • Help the senior leadership team and other key leaders assess the state of the business, establish strategic direction and clarify the organization’s business model.
  • Guide the in-depth analysis of the organization.
  • Facilitate discussion and decision-making around design issues .
  • Challenge thinking and share experiences and resources to facilitate the transformation process.
  • Provide team development and leadership training and/or certify internal resources to deliver consulting and training programs.
  • Assist in implementation planning and implementation.

Our consultants are well-read, work with lots of clients in many industries and stay current on best practices. We’ll bring our knowledge of best practices to your organization and also do our best to transfer our knowledge and tools to you by making our methods, templates, models, procedures, etc. available to you for ongoing use. We’re also willing to research topics that require additional study, as they come up during the process.

What makes your approach unique?

  • Tested experience and methodologies in organizational assessment and design, change management, leadership, teams and employee empowerment.
  • Low fees. Because we are a small, boutique firm, our fees are well-below those of larger consulting companies, even though our experience is high.
  • Whole systems approach. We intervene at many levels of organizational performance.
  • Written materials to support change process and transfer learning to others.
  • Personal Touch. We are small and so clients will work with a principle consultant throughout a project, which facilitates continuity, trust, and an intimate working relationship.
  • Measurable outcomes. We like to identify and track business metrics and link everything we do to the strategic objectives of the company.
  • Training products. Besides our design process, we offer training in leadership, teams, trust-building and emotional intelligence to align employees and enable them to succeed.
  • Social skills. We understand people and group dynamics and so facilitate progress around sensitive and controversial issues.
  • Knowledge Transfer. We want to do all that we can to ensure transfer of our capability to the clients to help them utilize these methodologies in the future.

How do you adapt the design process to our unique needs?

We don’t sell you an off-the-shelf process but take time to get to know you, what is important to you and what you want to get out of the process. We recognize you as the experts in your industry and business. We follow a partnership model in which we listen to your needs and plan our activities and strategies together. We then adapt our approaches and tailor our methods to your specific needs. We’ll start with where you are and what you need and plan strategies together.

What is it going to cost?

Of course our fees depend on the scope of the work. However, since we’re a small, boutique consulting group, our fees are much lower than the larger consulting firms. Plus, you get a seasoned consultant with many years of experience and not interns or recent MBA graduates. Although difficult to suggest a number without further conversation, our clients would say that the cost of redesign is an investment that will more than pay for itself through improved customer service and operational efficiencies and financial performance.

What is your approach to communication and change management?

We assess organizational readiness and educate leaders in the importance of good communication, employee engagement and change management. We do a stakeholder analysis or commitment plan to identify where stakeholders are, the degree of support required from each individual/group and actions to gain their support. We also identify the “what” of the communication and then determine the how and when of communication and commission a team to be responsible for communication and change management throughout the project. We carry out the communications plan, ensuring that it includes face-to-face and two-way dialogue. We pay particular attention to supervisors and how they are doing and the role they are playing in the change process. This may include providing communication training to them.

How do you keep a project on time and within scope.

The most important project management tool is a proposal that outlines our deliverables, including a time-table for their achievement. We’ll review these at the beginning of the project and then during review meetings throughout the process as well as at the end of each phase of work. This means that you’ll approve and always be part of the discussion about objectives and how well we’re staying within the scope of the agreed upon work.

Are you willing to guarantee your work?

Yes. One of our agreements is that you can terminate our contract if not satisfied with our work. And, we won’t ask you to pay for work that doesn’t meet our deliverables or your expectations. If something were not meeting your expectations, we’d certainly like the opportunity to talk about it and jointly search for new approaches that would satisfy your expectations.

What do you do to build and maintain a positive relationship with your clients?

We believe the quality of the relationship is paramount to our success. We recognize that our clients are our customers. We treat them with respect and defer to their values and align to what is most important to them. So, we establish clear deliverables and then hold regular review meetings to discuss how we are doing. We also “check in” with key stakeholders so we can address concerns and make sure we are on the same page.

In addition, we typically include some “assurances” as part of our proposal and initial contract. For example:

  • Develop and work towards clear, mutually agreed upon objectives.
  • Be prepared for each consulting appointment and accomplish the work within a reasonable time frame and at a customary and reasonable fee.
  • Educate participants in the principles, methods and skills used.
  • Keep confidential the terms of our agreement as well as information regarding the operation of ____.
  • Be open to feedback and adjust, when necessary, our consulting and training methods to the needs of your organization.
  • Bring, from the best of our knowledge and experience, the best methods available for accomplishing our objectives.
  • Terminate our contract if, at any time, it is not accomplishing your objectives.

Our consultants are also trained in facilitation and communication skills. They understand group dynamics and how to manage delicate conversations. We like to establish agreements or ground-rules regarding how we’ll communicate and work together during strategy, assessment and design sessions. These include such things as:

  • Stay with the topic at hand and have one conversation at a time.
  • Participate fully in all discussions, exercises, and assignments.
  • Put aside personal agendas and seek “what” is right and not “who” is right.
  • Seek involvement from all members.
  • Share your opinions honestly but with the intent to be constructive.
  • Listen and respect all opinions, even when you disagree.