Resolving the tension that can doom transformation initiativesAdd bookmark
For most businesses, hierarchies cascade information from the top of the organization to the bottom. Although this is often the standard 'command and control' approach to running a company, it also results in silos as information flows down each branch of the organizational chart. The result is the creation of mini ‘fiefdoms’, each of which behaves as a separate entity. In such an environment, information risks being interpreted slightly differently and shaped around the particular role carried out by each silo.
If information flows top-down, by contrast most business processes instead cut across the organization, entering and leaving many of these silos on its end to end journey.
According to Cristian Matei, Head of Business Transformation at Veolia, this tension between the horizontal and vertical axis has been the ruin of many well intentioned process excellence initiatives.
Establishing process owners with oversight of key end to end business processes is a common way to overcome this issue, but such initiatives are destined to be thwarted by the power brokers in each of the organizational silos their process intersects.
Cristian Matei says that the answer is to ultimately change the way we structure our businesses. Veolia Bucharest won the 2019 OPEX Awards first place for best business transformation project, partly in recognition of how they tackled precisely this horizontal/vertical tension.
The transformation began with the design and development of a completely new organizational architecture from the ground up with the direct involvement of more than 600 employees.
The previously hierarchical organizational structure were reimagined to become dynamic and agile, following the definition of key performance indicators and aligned vertically and horizontally. As a way of sustaining these changes, informal leaders who embraced the new organizational culture were identified and promoted.
Horizontal/vertical tension does not have to be the norm in your organization, but it does need to be recognized and tackled. Transformation projects should be bold enough to challenge assumptions and make structural changes rather than allowing the status quo to bring down change efforts from within.
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