What is organisational design?

Organizational design is the discipline of shaping an organization to become more effective in achieving its vision and purpose. It aligns people, work and competencies with business strategy and objectives.

“There is no best way to design an organisation, to lead it, or to make decisions. Instead, the optimal course of action is contingent upon and must continually adapt to the internal and external operating environment.”

Edward Carroll

Rethinking technical assistance organisation design in the public sector

Optimizing behaviors as well as organisational levers

What happens in an organisation is not directly a matter of organizational levers (such as structures, processes, and systems) but one of behavior—that is, what people do: how they act, interact, and make decisions.

Designed for “best fit” with local operating environment

Fragile and conflict affected states are high dynamic and culture-specific operating environments. Good organisation design will be informed by the local context and not international or donor best practices.

Adaptive organisation that continuously improves

Adopting a continuous-improvement culture means fighting inertia and reluctance to change work routines and behaviors, even bad ones, by focusing on solving real problems instead of pointing to others’ success stories.

The time to rethink Public Sector Organisation Design has come. The need for contextual and human-centered organisation design and development is never been more important.

Where does organisation design go wrong?

Public sector organisations in developing countries and fragile and conflict-affected states face unique challenges that slow down the development of the organisation. If the cultural assumptions underlying the formal structure of an organization are incongruent with the cultural values of its members, another structure, namely, operational structure is likely to emerge. Under such conditions, the formal structure exists only on paper whereas the operational structure reflects the real structure. Too often donors focus on formal structures without understanding the underlying political structures and economy.

In addition to this, in many cases, the lack of budgets, variable levels of staff capacity, and disruptions due to political instability, corruption, civil strife or conflict slow, and sometimes reverse progress. When funding does arrive the evolution of systems, processes, and staff capacity happens in a piecemeal fashion as donors or the government focus on certain capabilities over others. As its systems and processes become more complex they may fall out of alignment with the strategy or mandate. Finally, the lack of regular monitoring and performance management ensure that decision-makers and managers are unable to identify the root causes of the problems they face.

Organisations are complex connected living systems

The notion that organizations are interconnected systems rather than a static structure depicted on paper serves as the foundation for good organizational design. They are intricate, continuously changing, and evolving organisms with many moving parts that are constantly shaped by the environment in which they live.

Without the right organization design, your strategy is just a shopping list

We work with public sector leaders to clarify their organization’s mandate and strategy and translate it into an operating model, structure, and processes—all with their people and culture in mind.

  • Align the the executive team with strategic direction, priorities and purpose 
  • Raise awareness and prepare in this team to adapt as new challenges emerge
  • Pinpoint where the organization is today and where it needs to be tomorrow but using performance data, perspectives, and benchmarking.
  • Deep dive on the whole structure: spans, layers, job architecture, reporting lines, and people costs
  • Identify where work is getting done, using organization research, mapping tools, and network analysis
  • Distill the strategic priorities into an operating model, organizational structure, and set of governance processes
  • Build a ‘best fit’ structure that will perform in the local context over the long term
  • Support managers to incentivise and manage for optimal work place behaviors
  • Create a practical action plan for the changes and win people’s hearts and minds to make sure it all sticks