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Organization Design: Not to Be Overlooked


Flowchart representing organization design
Image: kubko -
In my WorkSpace Connect articles, I have explored links between IT, real estate/facilities, and HR and have suggested that these links exist at the outcome level and across the disciplines’ activities. Making these links work requires everyone within each of the three disciplines to think beyond our functional lines, ensuring these functions do not act as silos.
However, another group that sits alongside HR, or is sometimes part of HR, needs to be integrated particularly closely with the other disciplines so that its work is connected to the different aspects of the connected workspace. This is organization design (OD).
OD focuses on how organizational elements such as organization structures and processes enable people to perform their work. Obviously, since the connected workspace concerns how the working environment enables people to do their jobs, the connection between these two areas or approaches is close.
OD is also all about holistic design of an organization, using and combining organizational elements to achieve this.
Organization models such as McKinsey’s 7-S or Jay Galbraith’s Star point to the different elements a company can use, as well as the necessity of integrating these. My preference is for McKinsey’s 7-S (strategy, structure, systems, staff, skills, shared values, style). This model is most familiar to business leaders; using a tool that business leaders feel comfortable with is helpful, regardless of whether it’s the one preferred within HR/OD.
Models like this help OD practitioners make the necessary links across an organization. For example, the skills of individual employees need to align with the structure in use. Therefore, if a company is planning to introduce a matrix organization, it would need to ensure that people have sufficient tolerance for ambiguity to navigate the matrix.
Similarly, the connected workspace focuses heavily on employee experience, which also requires integration between the tools and resources it provides.
This means both OD and the connected workspace emphasize the need for integration, and they both benefit from a single, holistic approach. As I have suggested previously, companies should neither treat digital and physical workspaces separately from each other (see my suggestions on the return to the office) nor from the rest of the organization. For example, HR needs to align the connected workspace with the reward system so that people earn recognition for demonstrating discretionary behaviors, such as sharing knowledge or building social connections using the appropriate digital systems.
The connected workspace should, therefore, be seen as part of OD. But this does not mean that OD needs to get involved in all aspects of the organization model. HR will generally lead on activity related to the staff and skills elements. OD will likely lead on shared values and style. IT and real estate/facilities will lead on the digital and physical workspaces, respectively. But OD needs to ensure the overall picture joins up and that all elements are pointing in the direction the business needs to go, providing an overall organizational strategy.
That said, it may be time to update our organization models, too. Afterall, the 7-S model is 40 years old this year and the Star model is nearly 60. Neither include the range of elements that are important today.
As such, I often recommend an extended “10-S” model, which includes firstly, social relationships (see my comments on the importance of social capital), and then also the digital and the physical work spaces.
The need to integrate a company’s connected workspace and organization design, and the opportunities for using a new integrated organization/workspace model provide yet more reasons for ensuring that HR/OD, IT, and real estate/facilities are all cooperating on the same agenda.