Ken’s Rule #3 - Strategy, Structure, People: Perfect Your Organization | Vietcetera
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Apr 23, 2021

Ken’s Rule #3 - Strategy, Structure, People: Perfect Your Organization

Examine performing and non-performing organizations or departments, and build a strategy.

Ken’s Rule #3 - Strategy, Structure, People: Perfect Your Organization

The results of Strategy, Structure, People are powerful and the learnings are endless. | Source: Shutterstock

Ken Stearns is a grandfather, father, midwestern boy, writer, speaker, photographer, and lyrist. As he winds down his decades-long insurance career, the influence of his travels, experiences, exposure to cultures, religions, and music is beginning to emerge. Ken continues to write with several projects in the works, and he enjoys photography and writes music.

From Rule #1 "Tom Yum Team Building: Balance Your Approach" to Rule #2 "Delegate, Delegate, Delegate: Leverage Your Leadership", here's Rule #3. Brace yourselves.

"Strategy, Structure, People" is a methodology I have developed and used now in more than four countries and multiple businesses over the last several years. 

The process carefully examines performing and non-performing organizations or departments, and it begins with making sure you have a clear and up-to-date strategy that’s supported by well-articulated statements of your mission and vision. These guiding lights are telling your customers, partners, and staff where you are going and the values and principles that guide you. 

Up to this point, it’s been clear who you are, what kind of organization you are, the value you bring to your customers, and how you execute that. But now it’s time to build the right strategies to get you there, the organizational structures to support the delivery of these strategies, and the right people in the right roles to deliver the right skill, management, or leadership that’s needed across those organizational structures.

While the company has an overall strategy, each team, each department will need its own strategies to support the delivery of the overall organizational one. Thus, creating a strategy document for every department is a critical step to laying out what each team needs to deliver each month, each quarter, each year in order to support the company objectives — for example, what projects need to be completed, what research should be carried out, and what deliverables are needed and when. 

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In the development of the strategy document the new structure begins to emerge, with all the resources and skill sets and experience that are needed spelled out. We can then examine the current structure of the team. Are we resourced correctly to develop and deliver the strategies, the projects, and the change that support the overall company objectives? You may find that some functions become suddenly obsolete, while other critical areas are nearly void of the necessary resources, experience or skills. 

You might be faced with two structures. The one you have today through years of evolution, history, and compromises. And the one staring up at you from the paper, the one you know you need to deliver. Transitioning from where you are to the new one will take time and finesse, for sure. Structures involve people, and change with people is complex and difficult — it’s human. 

Having the strategy in place, finalize the structure that you need to deliver and move to the next step — that is, considering who are the right people for the right roles. This is all about aligning the organizational structure to deliver the strategy. Once this part is done, you have a solid strategy, the structure to deliver it, and you can set about filling the boxes with the best people.  The amazing thing I have discovered over the years is the number of times senior people have been left to the side. Once the strategy is completed, rationalized, and aligned, we often have people in the wrong boxes. 

The challenge at this step is to avoid tying together names with boxes or seeing a right or an earned privilege. Lay out the boxes — the organization chart — on a table with sticky notes, devoid of the names you normally associate with that role, the people currently in that position. This is important because we often create roles for people, not for the business, or roles change and we don’t change the person or move the box. 

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This step has to be done without emotion; the human part can be managed later. Never design for a person a role or function around which you put a structure. This would be a massive mistake. 

With your organizational chart, the boxes in front of you, you’re in the midst of a powerful moment. You have managed to design a strategy to support the company objectives, built a superstructure to enable it, and now have a chance to build the team to execute it. Each person is hand-picked and optimized to succeed with a clear vision and a mission. Each box is filled with the right individual for the right reasons. And it’s obvious.

If this is the first time you have used this Rule you will have some significant issues. With the strategy working from the smallest unit up to the largest department, there might be senior people left with no role to fill. The advantage is, of course, a perfectly optimized organization, but in the process, you will have to manage the people issues. 

Whether this is on a department level or a corporate level, exercising the Strategy, Structure, People methodology is the same.  The results are powerful and the learnings endless. It takes courage, a human touch, and a commitment to deliver what you have set out in your mission, your envisioned strategy, and the integrity to do it within the values and principles guiding the company.