Read the organisation chart horizontally – not vertically

I’ve just been thrown into a project around change management for a global IT transformation project where we are changing from IBM and Lotus Notes to Microsoft and Outlook (plus a huge pile of other stuff – let’s leave it at that…) certainand a very interesting task. I could be whining about that it’s too late in the process and that too many things have been put in motion but a) whining gets you nowhere and b) the fact that communication and change management has been put on the radar is something I see as a very positive thing.

Looking through the material that has been prepared already I must admit I became quite confused. Initially I couldn’t quite put my finger on why that was. The material and plans were very professional and the content was also quite good. What about the target groups for the communication? A quick count of the identified stakeholder groups in the plans and the excellent and detailed stakeholder analysis revealed that we were looking at 30+ different stakeholder groups. Oh dear…!

I started wondering how this extreme complexity had entered the equation. Some big chunks such as “end users” and “global IT” made good sense, however, I started to notice that some groups had only a few individuals in them and that they were labeled by department names and names of committees – even names on individuals. AHA! Card sorting time! After 30 minutes of simple card sorting with the 30+ groups I got that number down to 14 – the joy of simplification!

In a perfectly flat and socially connected utopian world you would not have this problem. You’d simply communicate 100% transparent in a Yammer group or something equivalent but since we are not quite there yet in our company we will still have to work in a more traditional way. As I see it, the main challenge here is to pull people’s head out of the organizational chart. I hope that we will dare to look at the organizational chart in a different way and instead of seeing a hierarchy of responsibilities, command and control we see groups of people with different needs.

The open and transparent organization is coming – but only if we manage to see the people and the needs within rather than seeing chains of command, functional departments, and committees with dubious mandates and strange names…

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