Change can be challenging in any business, big or small. It often puts a strain on people and on resources and is rarely a popular topic. Talk of restructuring is no different and can be difficult to initiate in any organization.
Restructures are intended to improve the way a business functions, but if they aren’t handled properly they can lead to a cycle of disruption and ineffectual changes that spur more costly revisions without ever seeing the expected benefits.
That’s not to say an effective restructure will be painless. Whatever the intended outcome, from improving customer service to increasing efficiency, changes in the business will bring challenges as they’re implemented.
However, there are ways to reduce those growing-pains and increase the likelihood of positive outcomes from your restructuring exercise.
Know where the knowledge lies
A key aspect of restructuring is examining the business in detail. It involves discovering who is responsible for what, where the lines of communication lie, and how the whole mechanism meshes. At its core, this is an analysis of your business processes.
When the business is restructured, those processes get shifted. Some will operate across new departments, new stakeholders, or interface with new procedures. It’s vital that staff have access to the information they need to run with the processes they’re introduced to and can find the essential information they need to fulfill new or modified roles. If the restructure results in staff reductions, it will be critical that the knowledge those staff hold doesn’t leave with them.
Understand the process-capture culture
The capture and collation of process knowledge is an important aspect of restructuring and subsequently running the business in its new format. This needs to be a healthy and continuous cycle of process capture and improvement.
Consider if any of these scenarios describe how processes are recorded at present in your organization:
- Teams each write up their current processes; there’s no existing knowledge base or standard format. Each team decides how to capture their processes for themselves.
- Outside ‘experts’ dictate the language and style of process documentation, regardless of the way the people who use the processes understand them.
- Processes are already recorded in static documentation which is not easily located or amended by the teams implementing them. They have no input into the procedure manuals.
Any or all of these situations can lead to an unproductive cycle and that can be hard to break. Restructuring will give a business the opportunity to reimagine how their processes are managed and how important operational knowledge is captured and retained.
Invite people to participate
Change is disruptive at the best of times, and the changing roles, departments, structures, and practices, while positive for the business, can feel threatening for those working in it. While it’s essential to capture and manage processes effectively, the organization needs to go about it carefully.
Outside analysts can provide insights into your business, but when they impose new procedures or methodologies, it can be difficult for staff to accept. Defensiveness is natural; being told by some ‘expert’ that what you have done for years is ‘wrong’ is not going to go down well. It’s going to affect staff morale and potentially trigger resistance.
People are less likely to engage with change if they feel it is being imposed externally. At best, they’ll offer lip service to compliance and slide back into old habits as soon as the external monitoring ends. Real change depends on people buying into the restructure by participating in it.
Your true process experts are the people who have been using your processes day-in and day-out for years. The knowledge of procedures and practices sits with experienced employees who could be empowered to take on ownership of the processes they know best. That includes taking responsibility for maintaining and updating process maps, giving others a clearer idea of how they work and what is required.
Make a positive change
Many organizations think they don’t have time to look at their processes. They want to complete their restructuring project first and will get to the procedure manual once changes have been implemented. Unfortunately, that’s a real risk and, in fact, squanders the opportunity to make a real change that will last.
Restructuring will reveal significant process lessons that could be captured and shared as part of the initiative. Make knowledge about better ways to work available to the wider business, creating an opportunity to build a process foundation that will ensure the change is both positive and sustainable.
By making that information easy to find, easy to use, and easy to update, the business sets itself up for ongoing improvement, well past the restructuring exercise.
While a business restructure will most certainly be disruptive, it doesn’t need to be to the detriment of company operations. Depending on how the change is handled, it could be an opportunity to build something stronger.
By engaging staff, capturing processes, and empowering teams to manage and improve them, the transition will be easier for those involved and result in more effective outcomes, ultimately delivering tangible value to the business.