It’s Not Always About The People

We live in a corporate age where progressive companies are hyper-focused on all things people – engagement, culture, development, meaningful work, etc.  As a whole, these are generally positive steps that better connect people to their work (and should lead to healthy results for the bottom line). But are we overdoing it?

While the people factor is very “in” right now, what’s not talked about is structure. Nothing sexy about that term, but it has a significant role in a company’s success or failure. It is a hallmark of organizational design and of critical importance that shouldn’t be ignored.

Case in point: IBM.

Back in the early 2000s the corporate behemoth was looking at ways to grow emerging business opportunities. It was finding it difficult because the business was not designed to support new ideas from inception to commercialization. Senior leadership did not devote time or appropriate resources to allow these opportunities to breath and grow. Focus on status quo and short-term results reigned supreme.

When Senior VP of Strategy J. Bruce Herrald began creating new divisions to focus on new opportunities, things changed. Top talent were assigned to head up these new divisions. As they innovated and demonstrated their value via pilots, projects were properly resourced and supported by senior leadership. This change in structure created a significant boost to IBMs bottom line, to the tune of billions of dollars.

Also notable is that this change in structure impacted the culture of the company; being part of these new divisions became appealing to employees as opposed to the mature business units the company had relied on for years (read the full Fast Company article here.).

Make no mistake, people will always be the heartbeat of an organization. But how the organization is structured is equally important.  The right people in the right roles does not automatically equate to success. How you piece that organizational puzzle together has tremendous impact on the outcomes you seek.

Be great today,

Ian

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