Reorg: A book review by Bob Morris

reorgReorg: How to Get It Right
Stephen Heidari-Robinson and Suzanne Heywood
Harvard Business Review Press (November 2016)

How to unlock latent value, especially in a rapidly changing competitive environment

I recall reading somewhere that the TI-class supertanker ships must travel more than 30 miles in order to reverse direction. Their engines are off before traveling the last 15 miles to dock. I thought about these and other issues as I began to read this book. They give us at least some sense of how difficult it must be for the world’s largest organizations to complete a reorganization.

However, the fact remains that there are valuable lessons to be learned from previous reorgs and that is worth noting. Stephen Heidari-Robinson and Suzanne Heywood point out, “A successful reorg can be one of the best ways for companies to unlock latent value, especially in a changing business environment – which is why companies are doing reorgs more often.”

They provide an abundance of information, insights, and counsel that will help leaders in almost organization to get its reorg right. They recommend – and thoroughly explain — a five-step process by which to achieve that objective

1. Construct the reorg’s P&L
2. Understand the given organization’s current weaknesses and strengths
3. Choose very carefully from multiple options
4. Get the “plumbing and wiring” right
5. Launch, learn, and (if necessary) course-correct

I agree with them: “Have a good business rationale for your reorg. Focus on delivery as much as — or more than — the design itself. Recognize that there will be issues along the way; learn from previous reorg mistakes in your own organization and from the experience of others [some of which is cited in this book]. Accelerate the process to minimize the upset for your colleagues and to deliver the business results you need as soon as possible. And finally, step up to the plate: lead your own reorg. Don’t outsource to others.”

I presume to add one additional suggestion. Over the years, I have been centrally involved in a number of reorgs of varying nature and scale. However different they were in most respects, one of the most important issues that all of their leaders had to address, when obtaining buy-in within the given workplace, was to be well-prepared to answer a question they probably wouldn’t be asked but a question nonetheless that all the employees were asking themselves: “What’s in it for me?”

Heidari-Robinson and Heywood make brilliant use of several reader-friendly devices, notably “Pitfall” and “Winning Ways” sections in most chapters, accompanied by dozens of Figures, Tables, Q&A quizzes, “drafts” of content documentation, checklists, 3-D option analysis, and a recurring “How to Handle Communications in Step [fill the step]” and “How to Use These Ideas” sections. These devices will facilitate, indeed expedite frequent review of key material later.

Presumably Stephen Heidari-Robinson and Suzanne Heywood agree with me that it would be a fool’s errand to attempt to apply all of the recommendations they offer for consideration. It remains for thoughtful and reflective readers to sort through the material with appropriate care, then select whatever is most relevant to their organization’s immediate and imminent needs, interests, resources, and strategic objectives. Elimination or at least substantial reduction of waste is surely one of those objectives as are simplification of processes, improvement of decision-making and problem-solving processes, and — in process — to “ unlock latent value, especially in a changing business environment.”

This book is a brilliant achievement. Bravo!

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