Ed Gillcrist tells TJ why organisational balance is so important.
Leading an organisation requires a broad range of capabilities and skills; from developing an effective strategy to establishing a structure that will allow you to realise the organisation’s objectives, to selecting, resourcing and developing the people that make it all happen.
While it’s important for any leader to understand their role in each component of the organisational model below, the most critical role they play is finding and maintaining the right balance between all of those elements simultaneously.
Taken individually, each of these elements seems fairly straightforward. When viewed in concert with one another, the ongoing interactivity that evolves as the organisation grows stimulates the development of increasingly complex and dynamic relationships between these organisational components.
A leader’s final and ongoing role is in establishing and maintaining the balance necessary between these components in order to achieve the organisation’s desired results.
Without this balance, organisations are unlikely to maintain whatever success or desired culture they’ve achieved for any reasonable length of time. Gaps will form leading to failures in task execution, and ultimately in the ability to maintain productivity.
Balance requires leaders to develop and clearly communicate philosophy, vision, and strategic objectives
Balance requires an understanding of the value that each individual brings and ensuring traceability from their roles to the organisation’s mission and objectives.
Absent a deliberate focus on maintaining that balance and the resultant culture, teams and business units begin down the slippery slope of operating in silos whether they intend to or not (or as a colleague used to facetiously refer to them as ‘cylinders of excellence’).
Balance requires leaders to develop and clearly communicate the philosophy, vision, and strategic objectives, then take a step back and allow their team to develop the mission, operational objectives, and structure required to execute.
A key to the success in both establishing and maintaining organisational balance is the clarification and expectations of the roles, responsibilities, and relationships required to execute that structure. Despite how overwhelming it might seem to find and maintain this type of balance, like all challenges, the key is first recognising its need and importance.
When viewing the model, it is helpful to see it from the perspective of initially standing up an organisation. First, the organisational strategy must be developed, and then the structure required to execute it should be derived from that strategy.
Finally, the capacity and capability of the people required to facilitate the execution of that structure should be established. While this may be a helpful way to view the initial establishment of any organisation, it does not account for the more complex dynamics of an organisation already operating at full steam.
This is where maintaining organisational balance really comes into play through the vigilant evaluation of results and diligent application of leadership.
As the organisation begins to execute its strategy, and results are realised, a leader should assess those results to determine if they are those that were anticipated and desired. If the assessment determines otherwise, then the components must be evaluated individually and collectively to determine where change(s) should be made to achieve the desired results and consequently maintain the necessary balance.
For instance, the initial structure dictates a certain capability at a certain capacity, but during execution you determine that you are falling short of anticipated results. You further determine that the required capacity was initially underestimated, or that some capability was not properly accounted for.
In either case, you may need to adjust the structure or provide training to accommodate that discovery. This assessment of results and subsequent adjustments illustrate the application of maintaining organisational balance.
Simply put, if the organisational model depicted were viewed as an algorithm where Strategy + Structure + People + Leadership = Results, then like any mathematical formula the only way to influence something to the right of the equal sign is to make appropriate adjustments to the factors on the left.
The best practices mentioned below are proven to help in maintaining organisational balance:
Accept the mantle of leadership
Leaders must accept that they play a major role in maintaining and optimising the balance required between the strategy, structure and people components of the organisation to ensure achievement of desired results and implementation of a deliberate organisational development plan.
Articulate to leaders at all levels that they play a critical role in maintaining organisational balance in each component of the model and within their teams so that the overall organisational balance can be maintained.
Strategy drives structure which significantly influences organisational behavior, people, and an organisation’s culture.
Establishing and implementing the foundational doctrine is a large part of setting the groundwork to execute the strategy; these include philosophy, vision, strategic objectives, mission and operational objectives required to guide the organisation in the achievement of its desired results.
Establishing a valid structure
The structure is reliant on orienting the organisation’s resources, processes, and relationships around the active development and delivery of its products and services. Understanding the four primary elements (leadership, execution, support, and sustainment) of an effective structure is essential to developing and executing it successfully.
Leadership at each level should develop, articulate, and evangelise the organisation’s foundational doctrine. The execution component is responsible for the development and delivery of the organisation’s products and services and the component around which all of its resources should be focused (product/service-oriented structure).
Establishing a valid structure within your team is or should be a logical extension of a leader’s authority. Done properly, it makes maintaining organisational balance at the global organisational level much easier and more effective.
Roles, responsibility and relationships
Understand and clearly communicate roles and responsibilities.
When people suggest that communications aren’t working in their organisation, they are seldom referring to eye contact, body language etc. (not to diminish the importance of this), but rather fully understanding the nature of the relationship that must exist bilaterally between functions to be able to execute the structure.
To identify those, the roles must be firmly established and defined, and to maintain them; relationships must continue to be cultivated.
About the author
Ed Gillcrist is president and chief executive at Shackleton Group.