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Organizational Design with Amy Kates | Sales Expert Insights

My name is John golden, says hop online says magazine pipeliner CRM and today I’m joined by Amy Cates. How do you do Namie, I’m just fine. Thank you. John and Amy is part of Managing Partner of the Cates Kessler organization, which consults in a number of areas, but particularly in organizational options and implications, and how to make sound decisions around how to structure your your organization’s.

You also teach at Cornell, there’s a correct and and obviously is also an author of numerous books and speaks and writes on a regular basis, a pretty busy so for somebody listening Amy. Her name is in by the way in New York today and I’m in San Diego Amy, for somebody listening when you talk about designing, you know organizational design or organization design. What do you mean by that to some people that might sound? Well, that sounds very because in the past organizations were fairly simple, but the world has gotten much more complex in the last four twenty years and we have to think about not just strategy and people.

But how do we really build an architecture of an organization so that people can come to work and do their best and understand? Who do I talk to how do decisions get made? How does workflow so when we talk about organization design its? It’s really the set of decisions you make after strategy to say? How do I want to configure my organization so that people can connect the right way horizontally vertically to get work done, and typically we work with companies that are global, that multiple product lines that are developing new strategies that are moving from? You know business business, to business, to consumer, introducing digital capabilities, and this complexity really requires than an organization that can can match the what to do that strategy.

Yeah, because it’s interesting what you say there, because you know what a lot of companies, obviously they they do. Their strategy, and then they move straight to execution right and don’t do that kind of structural piece and also a lot of organizations. You know traditionally kind of grow organically right I mean they structures come about organically. So what happens when you get that we’re we’re a company moves from strategy to execution without the design part yeah.

So typically, is its strategy really not even to execution? It’s the org chart? Okay. So let’s change the org chart change the direct report structure. Let’s consolidate some pieces, let’s make some new roles to get things done and we we design around people and the people that we have as opposed to thinking about an organizational model that can last so what happens when we don’t really do design work to think about How structure management process reward mechanisms and people processes work together in a system? What you do is you might solve a short-term problem by let’s say we take out some management layers, so we can press the organization and say that’ll speed decision-making.

We’ve changed the org chart, but we haven’t changed the work and so soon what we have is. The organization starts to organically grow again to fill in those missing pieces. So when we do our work with clients, we start with strategy. We look at capabilities and we say: what’s the organization model we want to organize toward and then let’s make smart decisions to build, really a roadmap to get there yeah and – and you raise an interesting point there, because that is the big trap that our companies fall Into is fitting.

People is starting with the people rather than with the the process or the organization of the structure, and then you kind of go. Oh well. You know this person they’ve been around a long time, so we’ll shoehorn them into this. Even though they’re the work, even though they’re completely not the right fit for it right, but it’s a real it’s real temptation to do that. Isn’t it absolutely and because that’s tangible, I can see that I can make a change.

You know we often joke that organizations are really. You know, three-dimensional invisible, abstract concepts, you you know, you feel the organization impact see, but you can’t see it, and so when leaders or even HR professionals, don’t feel confident in the set of tools they have. Then it’s easy to go to the things that we can change, that are tangible. Let’s change the org chart roles, jobs, people in those roles.

So that’s why we’re so passionate in our firm about not just doing the work and consulting but writing and teaching and making articles and doing workshops to really build the skills out there and demystify this and the other trap that people fall into a lot is. Is this idea of you can only scale by people right? You can only add more and more more people without taking a step back and looking at the efficiency part.

Looking at the structural part when you, when you work with organizations, is that something you come across a lot where they’re just throwing people at problems rather than analyzing the issues. Just don’t have enough to do we’re not busy here right, so everybody’s busy and yet feels and feels overwhelmed with communication and priorities, and yet we have inefficiency in the work and high costs so and the usual answer is you’re.

Absolutely right. Let’s put more throw more people at the problem, but more people actually generate work as much as they do work. They create surface area, they ask for meetings, they ask for data, they ask for reports. So one of the things that we go in and look at is is: it is really to start with the work. Let’s, let’s redesign the work and the workflows in the context of the strategy capabilities we want to get done and then look at people what you know what’s going on right now with machine learning, artificial intelligence, automation which is you know, it’s been building its in there, A little bit, but it’s going to come fast and big, is fundamentally going to change the nature of work, not just what we’ve seen in manufacturing or service work or call center kinds of things, but really in marketing in R & D and where we thought you Know this is where people’s jobs is are really about decision making, it is artificial intelligence is going to change it so or design becomes even more important, because we have to think about what’s the unique contribution that we need people to make and be sure that we Have the right skills in the right place and that again we we organize, so we can do unique things together, yeah and that’s an interesting you to bring that up about AI in machine learning in there and and baths and all of that kind of stuff.

Because I do I mean obviously, we are seeing that rapidly coming into into into many organizations. But we still don’t have a great grip on how, as you say, how to combine it with the people and at the end of the day. And we always had this thing about pendulums. Don’t we like pendulum goes: it’s like: let’s replace everything with AI and machine learning and then so, when you’re talking with organizations, how are you helping them through this transition because I can see this is on the horizon? For a lot of people, yeah yeah, so first, what’s interesting, you know 15 years goes all that outsourcing and we see a lot of companies bringing back some of that because they they push too much out the door, and that was core to their capabilities.

But with organizations you know what’s changed I think is strategy is still important, but it’s less about hey. We have a three-pronged strategy: that’s good for five to seven years, we’re going to organize toward that and get into some steady-state we’re working with a lot of organizations in industries in which we don’t know. What’s going to be a winning strategy. So when you think about media about cable, television and entertainment contents related, how do are we going to get people to pay for what you do? You know, for example, and all of the old business models are really being challenged.

So, in a lot of ways, the work is not to designer organization to a fixed strategy, but it’s to create organizations that can sense the environment that can make decisions quickly, that can experiment and rapidly prototype and try out different ways to see. What’s going to work and make good decisions around a portfolio of opportunities? Um because we don’t know you know which is going to be that winner, and so that’s that’s new and unsettling for a lot of fun, Peters, yeah, cuz.

What you’ve described there is obviously anathema to the way organizations were in years gone by. I mean this idea of you know, being extremely flexible and fluid and able to react, and you know prototype and and experiment. A lot of people were not set up. Organizations are not set up that way right, so this is obviously the big challenge ahead for people like you, when you work with organizations is how do you take and that a new problem – and I’m sure you’ve done this, obviously with some organization.

But how do you take a very maybe traditional organization and help them on that journey to being a little more flexible and fluid yeah yeah, and you know what’s interesting – is that flexibility and fluidity is not um. Just chaos right. You actually need more leadership. You need more discipline, you need more process in order to be fast and adaptable, especially when you’re, when you’re looking at organization, that’s in multiple regions – and I get has multiple product lines trying to come together for common customers and then make this change so um.

The way to do it is, is it has to start from the top as well as from the bottom, so it’s about leadership really being clear about where they want to go and what those new behaviors are. What success looks like again, we might not know the strategy, we might not know what even products we have, but we know how it will feel for our customers and how we need to work together. Then it’s about unleashing some of those experiments down close to the customer right, it’s not about just having something up at corporate that says up.

This is innovation here it is it’s really helping the people who see and touch the customer des, try new ways and create networks to really see what works and and invest in those. So it’s a lot of almost an internal venture kind of mindset that you have to build, and that has to happen over time. It’s it’s not just hiring a person. So again, this idea of capabilities that you know we make the distinction, say: competency lives in a person, but a capability, an organizational capability, something we do together and so focusing on that on.

How do we need to work together in new ways to get different decisions? New outcomes is really the old design work yeah. So it’s not a question of just hiring it. You know chief chaos officer or whoever something you like that, but I love that thought of what you’re saying about the fact is the flexibility and fluidity. It does not equal chaos because it can’t, because, obviously, chaos is the opposite: everything kind of grinds to a halt to glorious halls eventually.

So the other thing that kind of really in true intrigues me about this is you. You went back to leadership right, as you said leadership at the beginning. So that’s that’s. A big challenge now is for leaders to transition to being different types of leaders and in the past maybe the command and control is it doesn’t work so much anymore and it’s more the it’s more having this structural vision and then getting the right people to implement It absolutely but make no mistake, it is not.

It is not abdication of your vision, you know again walking into so many companies doing org assessments. What I hear over and over the number one issue that I hear across companies, we have too many priorities. Our leaders are not making choices, they’re, not setting direction or helping us make trade-offs. Where do I spend my time? Where are we making investments, and so the work of leadership today is to make some of those big bets again and and then nurture the small portfolio of small opportunities and and know when to stop a project know when to double down project, to move resources and That takes a lot of courage that takes a lot of collaboration that takes a high-performing leadership team to make trade-offs against all of these different options.

Low ego and then it takes managers, corporate coaches to help people really work in the teams across these boundaries. To get new work done so so the change that we see is absolutely you’re right. It’s not commanding controls, not figure out and tell me what to do. It’s giving me the framework so that I can come to work and spend my energy in the right. The right way – and I’m glad you mentioned that idea of choice because it’s a bit of a soapbox of mine.

This idea is like human beings as human beings. We hate making choices, everything we like, but we really hate it because when you choose one thing you by definition of default, unchoose other things and we prefer to hedge our bets all the time, and I do think we were in a in a world you’re right Now you’re we’re in a world where you have you have to make choice and you have to make bets and if you make a wrong choice, you’ve got to get out of it quickly, right, yeah, yes, so speed! You know if, if I was to say, what’s the biggest difference that see in the last, you know 20 years of doing this kind of work.

It’s not. The world wasn’t complex before global, but the speed of of expectation has changed. So what technology has done? Is it it has been a cycle times of product development, of of customer expectation of R & D, and yet we need to. We need to connect the best middle of managers in our global organizations, and you know, I often say, as human beings we haven’t really evolved in the last 20 years.

We don’t process information any faster. We still like to build relationships and get things done through trust, and so this pressure to be faster to make good fast decisions is really what drives a lot of organizational change. How do we reconfigure to get the right connections to make better faster decisions, because at the end of the day, that’s what wins, yeah and that raba see requires a good level of being able to process engineer very fast right? Yes, yes, yes, so it’s really management processes, business processes, workflows, decision processes, governance forms friendly, it’s all the stuff that leaders and managers hate to do it’s not a fun thing that you know we sign up to do to say: I’m going to be ahead of a Function and ahead of a business unit this, but this is the work I mean, I think that’s it.

That’s a that’s a great point also to touch upon there yeah. It’s not it’s not probably the most exciting of work for people, but as you, as you have laid out quite clearly here that if you don’t get your processes right, all the different processes right you’re not going to be able to move with speed and you’re. Not going to be able to you know, have success and and and you’re not going to be able to change direction.

If you need to fast either exactly exactly again that idea of discipline rigor, you know how we run teams. How do we meet how we make decisions, how we manage work and handoffs but across boundaries? All of that helps us actually to move faster, but it means John putting the time into design those being thoughtful and then also keeping them healthy because they don’t last as we choose direction, we need to change all of those pathways and mechanisms and and what I Urge leaders to do is to explain that to employees so that it’s not we’ve made a norm change this time.

We got it right, it should last because it won’t and then they won’t, it reduces trust and credibility. Rather, to say, we have an organizational vision just like we have a strategic vision, we’ll be organizing toward that and here’s what you can expect as we move forward together, stay with your way to managing change yeah, and I think that’s a that’s a fantastic point too. To end on here is that idea of getting people comfortable with the fact that what you’re designing is the best thing you can design for today, hopefully for tomorrow, but maybe the day after that we might have to change again I mean you look at, as you Said the speed of disruption I mean you mentioned the broadcast and TV industry, I mean who they wouldn’t have thought a few years ago that they get so blindsided by streaming and now they their struggle for business models.

They can so I mean IIIi. Think that’s a great thing to to end on that idea of the fact. Is you you we’re not we’re not building to steady States right we’re building the best for now? Yes, so it’s a growing field. There’s lots of resources out there. You know we’ve been making articles and articles books and really trying to help people understand their tools or frameworks. There’s methods to think about this and have the conversation together and just make make smarter decisions about your organization yeah, so Amy before we go.

If you just like to tell everybody a little bit more about yourself, your organization, how they can learn more about you and what you do sure I’m Amy Cates my partner is quick Kesler. We have a wonderful team of just about a dozen people that work with us and all we do is help. Leaders and leadership teams make smart decisions about their organization, but we also teach our design, as you mentioned, through Cornell public programs, in-house programs.

We have the latent learning series online, as well as YouTube blog of articles and our website case. Counselor comm has lots of articles and blogs on the topic if people are interested so we’re always eager to share and to teach and always have someone contact me with a question: great, listen, Amy. This has been fantastic and I encourage people to check out more about this, because I’m I’m a firm believer that it’s it’s! How you organize yourself! That’s how you’re going to win in the future, because you’re going to have to be moving in so many different directions and being able to be very, very flexible in that so again, my name is John golden says.

Pop online says magazine: pipeliner CRM, Amy Cates been a pleasure and look forward to see you all again soon. Thank you.


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