A regional inspectorate in the field of environment and safety was faced with a major cutback in the form of a reorganisation, that was approached in a very top-down manner. The whole process initially led to a lack of clarity about the division of tasks, work processes and governance. In addition, people felt that they were being 'changed' - they felt little influence. And this didn't sit well with them.
The director was looking for a breakthrough. On the one hand, his goal was a clear and supported organisational structure in which everyone would be clear on who has what role and responsibility. On the other hand, he also wanted to strengthen leadership and cooperation.
An organisational structure is much more than an organisational chart. It is in fact a cohesive system of agreements on aspects such as division of tasks, management responsibilities, mutual relationships, division of power and communication lines. Together this set provides an answer to the question 'how do we want to cooperate with each other so that we can achieve our greater goal’? If these arrangements are not clear to people, are experienced differently or do not feel logical, it does not work.
In this organisation, we went in search of the underlying guiding principles for the structure. But in our conversations with the Works Council, employees and managers, it turned out that these were not unambiguous. Everyone had different perceptions. What's more, we came across stories about what didn't work out and what went wrong. Sentences like: "the director knows how he wants it anyway, so why this process?" and "we never get our stories straight".
We discussed our findings with the group of managers. The aim was for them to be able to make joint decisions about the organisational structure. To this end, we translated the various findings into a number of issues or areas of tension, such as:
- People talk a lot about 'getting the basics in order' - does this mean that you want to focus mainly on efficiency, or do you want to focus on quality and client satisfaction in the long run?
- What level of quality do you want to deliver: bronze, silver or gold?
- Coordinators are now officially functional managers, but in practice they mainly offer personnel management. This seems to cause friction: how do you want to deal with this in the future?
This conversation led to a reconfirmation of design choices, but also to new decisions. And a coherent story emerged: 'let's organize it in this way, because...'. We turned this into a presentation and report to be shared with the employees.
The process produced a clear picture of the structure, which was supported by the management team. But more happened... by having an intensive discussion about the why of the organization and the structure that fitted it, the managers discovered that they were striving for the same things. This created a connection. Because the new structure was successfully created together, the group had its first success together. And so, the conversation slowly turned from stories of not being able to do this to stories of being able to do this.