Organisational Design as a Factor of Culture

Following on from a recent post where we looked at how entrepreneurs could ‘culture’ culture; we identified 6 elements that influence corporate culture. One of these was organisational design.

So let’s start with the proverbial elephant in the room. If you are an entrepreneur just starting out and you are expanding your founding team from one or two; to three or more; how does this apply yo you?! Well quite frankly – this applies to you even more than those who have a number of staff already and are just expanding their team slightly.

The late Steve Jobs once famously quipped that the most difficult position that he and Steve Wosniak recruited for was the third Apple Macintosh employee. That’s because this person who enters the fold so early on in the journey – critically must be cut from the same cloth as you. There is nowhere to hide; no buffers that can run interference for values and characters that fundamentally do not align.

This is where culture is born. This is where organisational design begins to live and breathe. As you begin to scale various dynamics begin to come into play and the “command and control” default that many entrepreneurs favour in their early days very quickly becomes unsustainable.

So what are the three main things that an entrepreneur can do to ensure that their organisational design as well as the organisational structure are working in harmony and not against each other?

  1. Have a organisational design that has a purpose
  2. Clearly define each and every role
  3. Connect and make way for two-way communication

Have a organisational design that has a purpose

Simon Sinek said in a TED Talk that; “people don’t buy what you do; they buy why you do it”. And the same is very much true when looking internally. Your employees want to galvanize around a purpose. A Real purpose. Let’s make some money and get rich; is not a strong enough purpose.

When thinking about the design of your organisation; think about why you exist. What need are you solving. Why do you do what you do. When this is resolute and crystalised in your mind; it becomes that much easier to design your organisation around that purpose.

Clearly define each and every role

A lack of accountability, responsibility and a lack of clarity about where one person’s job starts and another’s ends is a breeding ground for discontent and mistrust. Is it critically important to make sure that everyone knows what is expected of them.

This leads to a high level of trust; and teams who trust each other, work incredibly efficiently with each other. Highly effective teams are borne first out of clarity of expectations and then in how they communicate with each other.

Connect and make way for two-way communication

Communication between employees and with management should not be forced. There should be a clear and open channel that fosters two-way communication. Granted there are platforms that need to be created which allow a top down flow of communication; but there should be mechanisms which allow for communication to flow back up the chain of command. This is a principle of social business where the constructs of social media are applied internally to ease this open dialogue.

When communication is forced “underground”; this is when rumours and cliques are formed that are not necessarily inline with the purpose of the organisation. Critically though; these pieces of communication are potentially not inline with the purpose of the organisation and that is of even greater concern.

How your organisation is structured in terms of reporting lines and corporate culture should ultimately boil down to the same thing. Everything that you do should be serving your purpose; everything should be pulling in the same direction. If one thing is pulling in an even slightly different direction; then your organisation is not performing optimally.

Originally published at jonathanhouston.co.za on May 03, 2016.

About Jonno

I am passionate about digital marketing and digital strategy. During the day, Jonathan fulfills the role as Head of Digital Marketing for HKLM. My work at HKLM includes strategy conceptualization, focusing on the alignment of digital marketing to business strategy as well as assisting HKLM's clients on fulfilling their digital objectives. I am also the author of Internet Marketing for Entrepreneurs, a 50 000 word body of work which touches on the subtleties of digital marketing which are often overlooked.