Internal fiefdoms exist everywhere

Start-ups are thought to be ‘hip’. The hierarchies are flat and the corporate culture is all about informality and agile working. But often that is only the picture that is projected externally. Start-ups also have to grapple with the issue of organisation design. A start-up with 50 employees had a very traditional form of organisation.

The problem was that the organisation chart included a unit for the development of infrastructure and a unit for operations. But there were many customer complaints and, above all, a lot of conflict with mutual finger-pointing between the two departments. The company had already invested in team-building sessions, interface work and communication training. Without success.

What happened next?

The managing director feared resistance as soon as the topic of reorganisation was put on the table. The phenomenon of ‘internal fiefdoms’ also exists in the start-up sector. So we treaded very carefully. Working with the managing director, we developed initial scenarios for how the organisation should be structured. The scenarios pointed towards more ‘end-to-end responsibility’. Teams were to be formed that take responsibility for the whole process, from the customer request to customer satisfaction.

The managing director was still worried. We designed a storyline for the next workshop with the management team. By now it should have been clear to everyone where the shoe pinches. We explained that customers would benefit most from a new organisation design. At the workshop, we went through the scenarios and asked the management team to add to and develop them. This procedure avoided any resistance. ‘Commitment comes from involvement’, as we say. During change processes, what most people want to know is ‘What does it mean for me and my role?’ It is important to find interventions that allow people to put their own concerns to one side and adopt a meta-perspective.

In the weeks that followed the workshop, the management team was given two tasks. The first was to conduct all contextual customer interviews in order to better understand the challenges facing the company at that moment. These were then developed in a strategy map. The next step was for everyone to think about how the scenarios could be further developed. The article by Henry Mintzberg, ‘Drawing how companies really work’, should have provided them with inspiration. And what has happened since then? The management team has voluntarily stepped into the centre of the reorganisation process and is already developing new approaches that can be implemented next. An interdisciplinary core team is currently working on the finer details of the process. We will keep you informed – watch this space.

Claudia Wintersteiger schreibt auf einem Flipchart

Claudia Wintersteiger

Accompanies organisations through profound transformation processes and supports them in designing business models, developing new strategies and implementing them.
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