Category: Change Management
If you are working within a matrix organizational structure, you are probably aware that optimal environments are described as being larger organizations, highly professional environments, and those requiring resources with diverse skill sets.
At first glance it may seem that many organizations should do well working within a matrix structure since they appear to meet the above criteria. Yet many organizations fail to achieve real and sustained success. Why?
Perhaps their foundation has some cracks …
If we look back at some of the research around matrix structures, we’ll see that the above criteria are only half the picture. In addition, matrix organizations are optimally suited for environments that are highly collaborative, have people with strong interpersonal capabilities, and have appropriately placed authority to make critical decisions.
This is where it gets interesting. For example, Does everyone within an organization have to collaborate well or just a few? What are appropriate interpersonal capabilities in the workplace and when are they considered strong? Who should be authorized to make decisions at what level and when are they considered critical? Subjectivity will greatly influence an individual’s response. In fact, anyone working within a matrix structure could find examples within their organization to satisfy this level of ambiguity.
To understand if your organization is well suited for a matrix structure, you need criteria that are more objective and definitive in their application. You need to take a long hard look at your organization’s foundation.
For example, how well does your organization adhere to the following criteria:
- Documented and understood roles and responsibilities across management levels
- Operational weekly plans in the hands of Chiefs and Managers
- Documented business critical processes including defined standards and requirements
- Mature issues management processes and documented escalation procedures
- Activity time sheets in the hands of Staff
- Performance measures in the hands of Directors
- Dashboards in the hands of Senior Management
- Documented and understood governance and lines of reporting
Basically, if your organization is not operating in an environment of accountability with strong governance, you may not be reaping all of the potential benefits of the matrix structure. In order to reach your potential, you may need to work on some of the fundamentals of accountable management.
You may not achieve all of the criteria on the list, but in the process, you will ask yourself enough hard questions to determine the best next steps for your organization. It’s all a matter of timing and you may want to ensure the foundation for the house is solid before expecting it to effectively support the matrix walls.
During times of transformation and change, collaborating together is the key to achieving greater levels of success.
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During times of transformation and change, collaborating together is the key to achieving greater levels of success.
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Mash-ups. The world seems to love them. Everything from Web content to songs and videos are being mashed to create new energy, ideas and outcomes. Why not clichés? If we take the ideals of “Location, location, location” and “Timing is everything” and mash them up, they pretty much form a foundational piece of Systemscope’s announcement that we have moved into a new, larger office space in Ottawa’s Byward Market.
Systemscope is one of Ottawa’s leading strategic consulting firms, specializing in business and service transformation. “Transformation doesn’t happen in a box, or simply through a tool … it requires a collective conscience around a business challenge, where collaboration can produce a clear path forward,” argues Systemscope Partner and Government Service Excellence Practice Lead, Stephen Karam.
With this in mind, “Location, location, location” embodies not only the physical address of the new Systemscope offices, but the layout as well. Systemscope chose the former Shopify offices as its new home primarily because the footprint of the office space makes it ideal to foster collaboration, creativity, and innovation, which are essential in the transformation process for the company’s clients.
The new offices are anything but typical. The new Systemscope environment boasts a variety of creative office spaces including:
- communal offices for the company’s three Practice Areas (Government Service Excellence, Enterprise Information Architecture, and Strategic Business Consulting)
- an expansive boardroom for hosting clients in more formal, facilitated workshop settings and for firm-wide strategic planning;
- the “Systemscope lab” – a glass enclosed central room where multiple practice teams can work together to cross-fertilize ideas among different project and practice areas, and formally develop architectures, models, methodologies and more; and
- finally, and perhaps most significant to our quest for optimized collaboration, there will be the “Systemscope Lounge” where employees and clients can meet in a central and casual environment to stimulate the creative and out-of-the-box thinking for which Systemscope is known.
This collaborative approach is the key to Systemscope’s successful service offerings, and is entirely reflected in the design choices for the new space. A significant portion of the new office is dedicated to casual common spaces including the lounge, a kitchen, a library, a shower facility (for those who wish to bike or run to work), and even a yoga ball. Even the senior partners of the firm, Denis Barbeau and Stephen Karam, insist on maintaining a shared office in order not to lose touch with the ethos of the firm.
In a further attempt to enable the nature of Systemscope’s collaborative practices, Systemscope will introduce the practice of having monitors showcasing the range of Systemscope’s work and client successes to date. “We are so busy and so focused on current projects that it is easy to lose sight of the excellent work we have already completed. This showcase is a constant reminder for us, and our clients, of the successes of the past and the full range of Systemscope capabilities.” says Kellen Greenberg, Director of Strategic Business Consulting.
“Collaboration doesn’t happen in isolation, and it must respect the systems of human and organizational behaviour” maintains Denis Barbeau, Partner and Practice Lead for Strategic Business Consulting. “Systemscope has picked a time in government where collaboration is needed more than ever and our new location is built just for this purpose.”
Systemscope Claims Old Shopify Digs – Ottawa Business Journal profile
Our New Space: Designed For Collaboration to Help Our Clients Transform by Denis Barbeau, Systemscope Partner
Introducing the Systemscope Lounge – Our Creative Commons by Denise Eisner, Senior Consultant
by Kathy Roy
After working for many years in change management within the private sector, I thought it would be a relatively easy transition to work with public sector organizations. After all, the Government of Canada is definitely embracing change, so my particular experience and skills must be required, right? Well the answer has been both yes and no, it all depends on the day of the week that you ask me!
I have found many differences, but one of the foundational differences lies in the manner that programs define their outcomes for success. In my experience with the private sector, it was typically linked to efficiency and financial gains. In my experience to-date with the public sector, it appears to be more heavily linked to oversight and elimination of risk. Yet efficiency is consistently being used to describe the Government of Canada’s future direction.
Let’s talk about the gap. I believe a major difference lies in functional complexity. Within the public sector, complex org structures and layers of oversight have created tangled webs of processes, roles and mandates that are not known, documented nor understood across different functional groups. In an attempt to improve the situation, public sector organizations appear to be continually seeking the next new initiative to further explain the complexity.
The challenge with that forward thinking approach is that organizations rarely look back and clean up the debris left over from previous initiatives. As a result, many public sector employees have shared with us their confusion and frustration over oft-times conflicting principles, mandates and direction.
But let’s focus on a path forward. We have an opportunity to embrace change, and the future looks bright. Many dedicated public sector employees have both vision and hope for the future. They are simply looking for a clear path forward. And perhaps this time they are looking for a different path forward.
The first step is to clean up the debris. This is where the path to efficiency is the same whether we are talking the private or public sector. It involves the definition of strategic work in terms of outcomes and objectives, and the definition of daily work in terms of required inputs and outputs.
But how does an organization identify its state of readiness? How do they even know where to start?
They start by determining their organizational readiness. They must take a hard look at their current state, and define the business they are in, in order to redefine their functional work around outcomes. It also requires the elimination of functional work that is no longer contributing to outcomes.
They also must assess their management readiness. They need to take a hard look at the attitudes and behaviours exhibited by management. They must have a clear vision of the future, and set objectives that will deliver upon that vision. They must also work collaboratively and cooperatively in order to make the tough decisions required to succeed through change.
One great thing about facing change is that millions of organizations have already embraced change, to differing degrees of success. Readiness can be determined and assessed. Starting points can be defined and applied. The research is steep, and the lessons are repeatable.
In all cases, an effective step by step approach can be adopted and implemented. But one thing is certain: The success of the implementation will be dependent on the extent to which an organization knows itself, and has cleaned up its current state. And there are no new initiatives out there that can replace this fundamental requirement.
So your workplace has been asked to identify savings through efficiency gains. I believe that if I were to ask ten different people for their interpretation, I would probably get ten different responses. So let’s start back at the beginning with a general definition.
What is efficiency?: Efficiency describes the extent to which time or effort is well used for the intended task or purpose. Source: Wikipedia
So if we accept this description, it’s safe to assume that in order to improve efficiency, one must make even better use of their time or effort for the intended task or purpose.
But does the public sector in general terms measure time and effort (i.e. work hours)? And if they do, do they measure it against intended tasks? Not that I’ve seen.
So let’s look at a private sector approach. When faced with improving efficiencies, organizations primarily focus on waste. In order to make better use of time, they eliminate the recurring problems that cause ‘lost’ time. Once removed, more time can be well spent on the intended task or purpose.
Conservatively speaking, it is estimated that approximately 20% of all work time is ‘lost’ for a variety of reasons. Imagine the amount of time you (and your team) spend waiting for call backs, looking for information, waiting for approvals, seeking clarification, clarifying expectations, and reworking deliverables. We all know that not every hour is created equal.
But again, does the public sector in general terms measure their time ‘lost’ due to issues or problems? And if they do, do they measure it against intended tasks? Again, I think not.
I recognize that these answers may not be very exciting, or sophisticated in their approach. But what is wrong with that? I get the feeling that people are looking for complex solutions to basic challenges.
If the public sector wants to gain efficiencies, here’s what I feel they need to do:
1. Subscribe to the premise that what isn’t measured, isn’t managed
- Start measuring efficiency – this means integrating ‘time and effort’ (work hours) into their dashboards and reporting systems
- Start documenting issues/problems – this means integrating problem logs or sheets into their daily work
- Embrace data and documentation by holding open and transparent discussions about results at all relevant meetings and bilats
2. Leverage the untapped power of setting tangible targets and measureable plans
- Integrate targets and plans into the daily world of work and have those expectations clearly indicated on dashboards and reporting systems – this means that all departments need to know with absolute uncertainty when a performance falls within expectations, or short of expectations (good day/bad day principle)
3. Put accountability back in the workplace and into the hands of the Manager
- Did you know that some estimates state that Managers control as much as 90% of an organization’s assets!
- Redefine the role of the Manager as responsible for their processes and people – this means giving them the authority to make decisions and hold them responsible for results
4. Walk the talk about client service
- Review the work of the department and reduce the amount of work that is not directly impacting the client – this means reprioritizing work around strategic outcomes instead of administrative tasks
In short, we need to get our hands on better data, set more targets, better engage our Managers, and refocus our efforts on the client.
So in an increasingly complex world, why not remember those lessons from the past. It might do us all well to dust off those basic management principles forged over time yet somehow forgotten in this exciting age of technological advancements.
By Kathy Roy and Kellen Greenberg
Regardless of a public sector organization’s intent to cost-reduce, realize efficiency gains, or improve effectiveness, Managers are being asked to find ways to do more with less. So the time is right to get back to basics and discuss some key steps that all Managers can take to identify cost savings opportunities.
There are many different approaches that an organization can take to reduce spending year-over-year. Some approaches involve new technological improvements, while others include innovative ways to streamline and consolidate processes. However, in times of fiscal constraint, many organizations are looking for zero cost solutions. And even more in demand are zero cost solutions with quick implementations.
Many of our Clients are applying some ‘go-to’ solutions to achieve quick results. One is to simply ratchet down discretionary spending like travel and hospitality. Another is to find specific functions or lines of business that can simply be stopped. No wonder these are the ‘go-to’ solutions – they have quick returns and results that are tangible. But we’re writing this blog with the idea of adding yet another ‘go-to’ approach to the repertoire, and its’ application lies within the authority of each and every Manager. It is the Manager’s ability to truly leverage their staff’s involvement and their available data and information to identify opportunities for cost savings.
The role of management and their associated work environments has certainly changed over the years. The increasing role of technology and the movement towards functional org structures (and matrix structures) have certainly contributed to that change. As a result, Managers today are less responsible for making decisions that directly affect their people. So when it comes time to identify areas for savings, the process seems to have become more complicated and complex.
But let’s not mistake complications with barriers. Many Managers are exploring new ways to involve their staff and leverage data and information to identify cost savings opportunities. They believe that a more engaged and involved workforce will collaborate to uncover the ‘right’ areas for cost savings. And they further believe that those ‘right’ areas for cost savings can then be validated and tested with data and information. By working with their team, and in spite of the many ‘obstacles’ and ‘unknowns’, they can deliver innovative solutions to do more with less. This should also be the goal for Managers that have become overwhelmingly fixed in their resource allocations.
So what exactly do we mean by leveraging staff involvement and available data and information?
Leveraging staff involvement
Staff are experts in the daily flow of work. They know what works well/what doesn’t, which work arrives on-time/which doesn’t, and where the delays/expediencies exist. Yet in many cases, they are either not asked or are not offering up this wealth of knowledge for consideration. Engaging the staff in the process is not just an expedient way of pinpointing the bottlenecks and backlogs, but also allows Managers to find hidden gems of opportunities. Further, this is something that both Managers and staff should be excited about, despite our knee-jerk negative reactions to reducing costs. Finding the ‘right’ types of efficiencies does more than just save money, it makes the work and the workplace more enjoyable and satisfying for everyone.
Leveraging available data and information
All work environments are full of activities and outputs. These activities and outputs are currently being overseen with varying degrees of formal documentation and discussion. Ideally, a Manager would have the right data and information to validate the potential opportunities identified for cost savings by their staff. Or, at the very least, they would be continually identifying ways to better document and define the work that is getting done. The forbidden fruit appears to be the data that speaks to resource allocations for many `non-measured` functional tasks. Despite the challenges in having data in this area, having detailed knowledge of `at work` days for all team members would go a long way to determining the total capacity of a team or division.
Managers that leverage both staff involvement and available data and information are in a much stronger position to not just find efficiencies by putting a hold on functions and spending, but by making precise decisions about the daily work of staff that optimize gains and minimize impacts.
But first, how does one go about leveraging staff involvement and available data and information?
- Involve key staff in the opportunity identification exercise – i.e. tell me where the frustrations lie
- Track both activities/outputs and frustrations – i.e. what got done this week and what got in our way
- Analyze financial information and understand its conversion to functional organizational structures – i.e. how many FTEs does it/should it take to deliver work/outputs
- Map current work processes to validate major opportunities/delays and their associated costs
- Identify major functional rubs and gaps in the flow of work and their associated costs
- Identify major areas of administrative burden and their associated costs
- Require more detailed reporting of `at work` days to understand the team`s total capacity for any given week – i.e. ensure they are ramping up for peaks and are all hands on-deck when required
- Review and understand the team`s available data and information, and share findings back with the team on a regular basis – i.e. here`s what the data tells us
Armed with increased staff involvement and available data and information, a Manager can then make the necessary decisions to deliver savings both within their own team and across their broader division. For example:
- They can understand not just the ‘peaks and valleys’ of workload, but also how resources affect service delivery and subsequently make decisions to adjust resource levels in the ‘right’ places, minimizing impacts to staff and service levels.
- They can share the right data horizontally and vertically across the organization to ensure that savings measures from across the organization are aligned in the broader horizontal process of a department and don’t end up finding savings in one area while propagating greater inefficiency in another.
When Managers leverage people and information effectively, they will not only deliver savings, but their day-to-day operations will be more effective. They will be in a position to continually align expectations and resources against tasks, and as a result, there will be less organizational friction and frustration in the workplace; the benefits of which are simply too many to list.
Finding savings and efficiencies is never an easy task, but it can be made less painful. Success will require that Managers both embark upon and embrace the journey!
Hear more about during Kellen’s and Kathy’s presentation on Finding Savings: Back to Basics at GTEC 2011, October 18, 10 a.m., at the Ottawa Convention Centre.
Kellen Greenberg and Kathy Roy are members of Systemscope’s Strategic Business Consulting practice.