Skip to main content

Pop quiz. I say “reorg” and your instinct is to:

(A) Run. Far and fast, never looking back (polishing your resume as you go)… OR

(B) Celebrate what is sure to be a winning experience

I’ve dallied enough in reorgs to put my money on “A.”

Here’s the thing about reorgs… or “right-sizings” or “rewires” or choose your favorite euphemism.

No matter how savvy and strategic the positioning, the message telegraphed to employees is typically one of headcount reduction or new reporting lines.

Reorgs look good on paper. Their benefits (i.e, cost-save, efficiency, etc) are easy to quantify.

Harder to quantify, however, are the insidious wounds they may leave behind. Resentment, disruption, uncertainty, and pervasive fear don’t fit neatly into the cells of a spreadsheet. But they linger, even following a well-led reorg. And they can really dampen an Employee Experience which, in turn, inhibits business outcomes and customer experience.

Is the right answer, therefore, to leave a company in a state of excess spend or inefficiency?


The answer is to ask better questions, have a clearer vision, and develop and implement solutions collaboratively with – not at – your team or organization.

Personally I think of a reorg like surgery to the business. Sometimes it’s necessary – even urgent. But often, a condition can be managed with a simple accumulation of small lifestyle changes.

So start by exploring small lifestyle changes within the business.

Are Marketing and Product Development, for example, struggling to align? Are Sales and Client Management competing when they should be collaborating? Are too many inter-department handoffs required to get the basics – like hiring, communicating, or budget approving – done?

Before blowing up the org chart, ask team members some questions like:

  • Where does collaboration tend to break down and why?
  • What steps – if any – aren’t serving the desired outcome?
  • Are there bottlenecks in decision-making, development processes, etc?
  • What do you wish your colleague on [other team] better understood?
  • What changes in how we work could benefit the customer experience?
  • Do goals and incentives across teams align?
  • Are we missing any critical skills or capabilities in our talent pool?

By thinking through all of the levers available in an Organization Design (process, people, incentives, strategy), you – leaders – give yourselves the opportunity to deploy more targeted and less painful solutions.

Think tweezers versus grenade. When you understand the problem, you can fix it with precision. Overhauling an org chart can feel like a Hail Mary (my one sports reference in 2020!).

Am I saying there is never a need to overhaul an organization? No. I do believe there are legitimate triggers. When a company is entering a new market, launching an entirely new product line or suite, or shifting its strategic direction, I do believe there is a case to be made.

My only ask is that you make that case. Because the risk to your people – their trust, their loyalty, and their employee experience – demands it.