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Why leaders need to pay attention to organisational design

In a world where technology is always advancing, it’s easy to overlook more traditional tools such as organisational charts. This article explains ‘An organisation needs to be designed effectively so that workflows run smoothly’.

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Source: Silicon Republic/ Lisa Ardill

The Org’s Christian Wylonis discusses why company leaders need to be pre-emptive and transparent when it comes to organisational design.
In a world where technology is always advancing, it’s easy to overlook more traditional workplace tools such as organisational charts.

Wylonis, who has previously worked at Fitbay, Vivino and McKinsey, co-founded The Org in 2017 as a platform where you can explore companies’ organisational charts. The start-up raised $8.5m in Series A funding last year to help build a database with this information.

Here, he explains why transparency around organisational design could help boost employee engagement and what a company’s org chart should include.

‘An organisation needs to be designed effectively so that workflows run smoothly’

Can you explain what organisational design means?
Organisational design is defining structures and processes that allow organisations to operate efficiently. Having a visual representation of the organisation’s design has a number of benefits, including improving internal collaboration and alignment.
Org charts help define reporting structures for all the employees within an organisation and create a process to ensure information is shared throughout the company.

Why is organisational design important for businesses? Is that particularly true now that we’re working remotely or hybrid?
Organisational design is more important now than ever. Companies going fully remote for the first time means team members automatically feel less connected to each other and less connected to their company.
People need to feel connected to a company and to their colleagues to feel engaged. An organisation needs to be designed effectively so that workflows run smoothly while people are disconnected physically, and people need to know exactly where they sit in the org chart for this to happen.
By knowing where they stand, employees will have a better understanding of how their own work contributes towards the overall direction of the company. Ultimately, the better employees know each other, the better they can work together and the better output they will produce for all.

What does the perfect org chart contain, in your opinion?
A perfect org chart should contain name, title, responsibilities, career background, location and contact information of every person on the team.

It is important that the org chart is readily available to all employees to help them in their day-to-day work, and because it increases the incentive for people to keep it updated. Some of the world’s biggest companies – like Uber and Google – have their org chart readily available to all their employees.

What are some typical pitfalls to be aware of when developing one?
It is important to keep an eye on the future, but focus on the current needs of the organisation. Organisations that scale too quickly may risk losing control over their organisational structure. Organisations that scale too slowly could risk limiting growth or overworking employees.

Generally, the number of direct reports should be limited to four to six people to ensure that every employee gets adequate feedback and support. Clear roles and responsibilities should be set to limit conflict between employees.

Is organisational design important for companies in every industry?
Yes. Every single organisation could benefit from having a well-built org chart. It increases workflow efficiency and internal collaboration, and, ultimately, increases employee engagement.
When employees know and understand where they sit in a company, they will have a better understanding of how their own work contributes towards the business’ overall direction.

What are some steps companies can take now towards better organisational design?
The first step is to visualise your current organisational structure and make it available to your employees.
It’s important to stop and take stock of what your organisation looks like now, and what you want it to look like in the future – and why.
Make a plan for how your organisation will grow rather than just adding people as they are needed without thinking about the structure as a whole. Laying it out visually as a structure is the best way to do this.

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