Strategic Insights
Avoid bloat, keep organizations lean for sustainable growth
Jeffrey Johnson · 07.16.2021

When Warren Buffet was once quoted to have noted that “a lot of stuff that’s done at big companies is unnecessary,” we all know what he meant.  

If we are realistic, we can admit how fast growing organizations would tend to throw everything they could think of at problems that would crop up, which usually would include hiring people who they hope can solve the problem immediately, so that everyone can just go back to the business of growing.

This is certainly the case if the only solution we offer is Recruitment. As the old saying goes – when the only tool you have is a hammer, then every problem becomes a nail.

But we have to remember that Recruitment and Hiring is just one of the many things we do to support growth. There’s Administration and Engagement, for instance. There’s Learning and Development. And of course, Organization Development.

In this era of disruption, Organization Development is essential to our work. Companies should benefit from their HR team’s knowledge and capability to design frameworks for decision-making and problem-solving that goes beyond hiring a solution. We can help them objectively scrutinize new functions and evaluate consequence to the organizational structure such that we come up with data-backed recommendations.

Indeed, when we design and operationalize an effective organizational structure, with clear accountabilities and authority, then leaders who have the accountability to solve the problem (and the authority to do so) can come up with innovative and creative solutions from tech-enabled teams that are agile and flexible. We optimize our teams, we further develop their skills with practice, and we stimulate meaningful engagement while recognizing the multi-faceted value they bring to the table.

As HR professionals, we deeply understand the changing workplace and comprehend the impact of digital transformation on traditional roles and expectations. More so than any other group, we are the ones who view the horizon to look at the workplace of the future and explore what it means for our people today.

So we know that if we have done our parts right, our people will be prepared with skills and knowledge for this future workplace, able to take on new roles within the organization as they develop and grow a deeper partnership with the company. With our support, our people will be able to produce fresh approaches to problem-solving and they will be empowered to do so much more with their talent and creativity.

And we must beware! We will miss the opportunity to do all these if we keep our heads buried in the sand because we lack boldness to look realistically at where are right now. If the organization is suffering from inefficiencies due to a bloated structure, seize the day now and begin the difficult, but necessary, journey back to organizational health. Evaluate and rationalize the org structure, get those job descriptions sorted and take out wasteful redundant levels, strengthen the learning and development services, take out waste in the processes. Take a look at what can be done and commit to doing it now.

Our people deserve this commitment. People are not just “resources” but are valuable, unique, multi-faceted partners whose talents, skills, and spirit we respect, admire, and receive inspiration from. The boldness of a true growth mindset today and a focus on sustainable growth will help organizations avoid having to do painful, and preventable, downsizing in the future.

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