org chartA lot of the complexity involved in completing work can stem from how we choose to organize our teams. Teams are entities with boundaries. We actually make teams to form boundaries, although you might not have thought of it in quite those terms before. Boundaries are not inherently good or bad – they can create focus and the lack of them can take that focus away. Boundaries become handoff points and badly placed boundaries can create complex systems of dependent handoffs that make it much more frustrating and costly to complete work.

In order to reduce the volume of vexing handoffs, you will want to understand both the types of work you will need to process AND the process that you’ll apply to that work in order to produce the desired outcome. A tool to help you understand that process is called value stream mapping. When you understand those aspects, you can start to create a thoughtful organizational structure.

You may be thinking that that sounds all well and good, but you’re in an existing company with an existing org structure. That’s ok, its even good. Its hard to understand everything that goes into organizing for success without having learned from past attempts. Follow the same process. Evaluate your types of work and map your value stream. Look for places that often bottleneck and try to determine why. Do the bottlenecks occur because of improper alignment of priorities? What about poorly managed dependencies?Form hypotheses about outcomes you’d achieve by making certain organizational changes. Then thoughtfully articulate those in a business case — include value in monetary terms as well as subjective measures. In general, you’re likely to want to organize in a way that allows you to accomplish key outputs from end-to-end with the fewest number of handoffs. That doesn’t mean you have no shared services whatsoever, but weigh the pros and the cons of each route and choose the one best for your situation.

No organizational model is going to be without its consequences. Make purposeful, thoughtful changes and implement them with care as organizational structure changes can shake people. Once that’s done, don’t forget to evaluate them against your expectations (hypothesis). Let people know how the changes they participated in have helped or hurt the anticipated outcomes!