A little more on “tough decisions”…but, this time something on the timeliness of them.

I had an interesting contrasting set of experiences in one organization…two reorganizations within a 5 year span.  For an industry leader, these were both major undertakings…surprising that it had to be repeated.  I was not responsible for either, but was fortunate to have a front row seat for both.  I learned a lot.

In the first, a giant consulting firm was brought in.  They had hundreds of analysts running around collecting data, having people fill out forms on how they spent their time, sitting in big meetings and reviewing the data.  They didn’t talk to anyone except to collect the data.  They involved a very small group of employees in the data collection and analysis.  They said nothing to anyone outside of their little group for 6 months.

During that time the organization was paralyzed…nobody did anything.  Literally all employees were consumed with fear and anticipation of getting laid off.  They were updating resumes, starting to network, having back office discussions, forming alliances they felt might afford some degree of protection, or figure out who was “going to get it”.  When the ultimate decisions were handed down, people moved on and the organization continued to fumble along but with a lighter load.

In the second reorganization, a small consulting organization led the activity and worked almost entirely with people from within our company…they involved us.  Data was collected through group meetings and discussion…not by filling out forms.  Most importantly, instead of waiting 6 months to communicate anything with the employees, this team communicated the plan about when each part of the company would be reviewed, and announced each decision as it was made.

By virtue of handling decisions in this manner, each department was “frozen” for only a matter of days, or perhaps weeks.  As each decision was made, the results were communicated, new roles were defined, exited employees left, and the departments were able to resume operating immediately.

The communications were extraordinary…complete, timely, and addressing the exact questions the employees had.  We moved through the reorganization phase in about the same amount of time as the first reorganization, but the acceptance of the changes was much higher, and while we were certainly operating at a lower level than normal during the planning and analysis activities, we were not “frozen” as an organization.

The key was communications…timely and frequent.