by Tim Kilpin | 09 Jun 2021
The Bloom Report
TBR Columnist Tim Kilpin
Dear Tim... Q: Are we done reorganizing? A: We’re never done reorganizing.
You know the word. And you dread it like a soldier hearing ‘Incoming!’
How many hours in your career have you fretted over the approaching reorg storm – wondering if your job would change, if you’d have a new boss, if you were suddenly going to be part of a new division…in a new business unit…in a new country? And through all that, how often did you just wish they’d make up their minds already, make the changes, and let us get back to work?
I’ve been part of dozens of corporate reorganizations, and have facilitated a few myself – and they are singularly the most demanding and stressful processes any organization will go through. Because it’s about so much more than identifying a better, more effective way to get the work done. People’s careers hang in the balance. Before I finally gave up counting, I had tallied 30 bosses in 30 years. (I still have the list, and it’s an…interesting read.)
My old company practically wrote the book on toy industry reorganizations. At the time, they were equal parts mystery and adventure, with betting pools going on who got the corner office, who’d report to whom, and who would quit. One particularly intense CEO selection process took on the air of a presidential campaign, right down to factions lobbying for their favorite candidates.
But no executive with an ounce of empathy takes the process lightly. You’re trying to determine the best way to optimize the talent you have on your team – to win a new business, deliver on new category expansion, expand your distribution footprint, or successfully integrate a new acquisition. All of these opportunities require organizational rethink – and I don’t care if you’re talking about 20 people or 2,000 – it takes time to work through the scenarios.
I had a boss (newer old company) who believed in rapid and frequent organizational changes: as the business shifted, he’d reassign the resources…immediately. Move fast, step on some toes, but get the best people in place right now to drive the new direction. I can tell you, it was exhausting for the teams…and it largely worked. After our 4th reorg in about a year, the team learned to roll with it.
And I’ve worked through reorgs that literally took months to put into place. The team knew it was coming, and groused loudly and often about the wait. There was nothing else for it – a sequence had to be followed, and constituents – both internal and external – had to be aligned. The only thing that made it any more bearable was that we announced all the changes – all at once – for everyone around the world. No waiting for other shoes to drop, no ‘I didn’t get the memo.’ It was taxing for the team, but then we could move forward with clarity.
And here’s the kicker: it never really stops. A new brand suddenly explodes in popularity. Another dies an ignominious death. An executive gets another job. And lo and behold, you’re reorganizing again. We’re never really done.
So…move as quickly as you can. Keep communicating. Stay focused on the work you love, and stay away from the betting pools.
And take it from me, don’t count your bosses. It’ll just make your head hurt.