How to Fix Your Organizational Structure, One Role at a Time

Organizational role chartIn a recent post, I discussed how a lack of a systematic approach to role definition and organizational structure design can create issues that reduce organizational effectiveness. In response to some excellent follow-up questions, I wanted to shed further light on the specific approach we used for a client in healthcare services that had experienced a period of rapid growth resulting in a muddled organizational structure.

To resolve a problematic organizational structure, one of the first things to do is to perform detailed discovery work to assess the current state of the organization and the elements that need the most improvement. It’s crucial to quickly develop and define an accurate picture of the current situation, being sure to incorporate data from all stakeholders to compile a broad base of information.

The foundation of our approach is to define and document clear job accountabilities as well as technical and behavioral competencies. These will be used to create job levels and job families, both of which contribute to job descriptions and defined job roles.

The components of well-defined jobs

  • Accountabilities are the specific outputs that an individual is responsible for completing in their role, and can be specific or general but must comprise of actual deliverables and measurable job results.
  • Technical Competencies are the skills, knowledge, certifications, education, and experience required of individuals to complete their required accountabilities.
  • Behavioral Competencies are the expected behaviors that an individual will demonstrate during the performance of their job that are critical to task completion. Examples of behavioral competencies include business acumen, communication, critical evaluation, and relationship management.
  • Levels are specific expectations of a role as it relates to scope and span of responsibilities, behavioral standards, and leadership expectations. Levels should be defined by the scope and impact of the role’s accountabilities on the organization’s performance and should be comparable across functions. For example, an Accountant level 2 should have accountabilities consistent in scope and impact to a Marketing professional at the same level.
  • Job Families are groupings of jobs that are usually defined by the similar accountabilities and technical competencies required to complete them. They generally have a natural hierarchy and similarity; examples would include accounting, marketing, procurement, sales, etc.

Having documented the job accountabilities, job levels, technical competencies, behavioral competencies, and job families, the next step is job leveling. Job leveling requires a close examination of the different job families to determine whether the accountabilities and levels are comparable for similarly titled and compensated roles across the organization. For example, does a director in marketing have similar job accountabilities as a director in accounting?

After determining and recommending necessary changes, the next step is to develop and promote an implementation plan for moving from the old to the new organizational structure. The key lesson we have learned from our experience with clients is that attention to stakeholder management is the major difference between a successful implementation and having our recommendations gather dust on a shelf. Change management should be part of the approach from day one, as well as collaboration across the organization with all key stakeholders. Effective and coordinated change management is critical; as the proposed changes often have broad implications for many stakeholders.

Management Concepts has completed job leveling assignments across a range of organizations including commercial and government, as well as large and small work groups. We have seen that they often create challenges for those experiencing the most change and can lead to initial resistance. However, with the data we gather and the systematic, collaborative approach we take—our common result is a better performing organization with clarification of expectations and career paths for employees as well as a shifting of culture to one of more accountability for results. Developing a systematic organization that has a defined structure tied directly to mission, objectives, and strategy has direct benefits that can aid in recruitment, job description creation, employee training and development, as well as organizational performance improvement.

Jim Sowers also contributed to this post.

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Richard Lashford

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