ADVICE : consultation: Think carefully before restructuring

We are looking at how to create an environment in our company that will give us quantum leap in the way we develop new products and ideas. We are thinking about setting each unit of the organisation up as its own notional business with the aim of creating more flexible and entrepreneurial culture. It is bold step but one that I think we should take as otherwise we will remain comfortable with the status quo. Do you have any thoughts to offer that could help me in making the decision?
There is definitely need in today’s world to aim to build an organisation that has high levels of innovation and flexibility. As technology advances the only way to effectively compete is to access the brain power in the organisation. Secondly, as the supply of skilled people reduces with the retirement of the baby boomers there will be an increasing need to create environments that attract talented and motivated people.
By considering splitting your company up into smaller units you will potentially create more opportunity for those capable people. However, as you say, it is bold step and let me sound note of warning.
Quite few years ago I had the opportunity to work for some time in Canada as management consultant. While I was there I saw large commodity-producing company do exactly what you are contemplating. It certainly achieved lot of new energy and innovation but there were some serious side effects.
It broke the organisation up into 15 smaller units, all with chief executive. In the process large number of older but highly experienced people left the business, leaving significant knowledge gap. The new people were very motivated and initially made significant profit from selling large amounts of raw product to competitors and overseas to emerging economies.
However, this was not sustainable and in the end the company had to retrench as the growth capacity of the natural product was exhausted. Secondly, this created knock-on effect internally with the company’s manufacturing units being unable to get the volume and quality of basic product needed. The result was some of its factories being unable to work for days on end and the production of lower quality end product than before.
The company also ended up with added people costs as it re-hired number of people it had let go as consultants as it needed their experience. The end result is that this company is no more as it was sold to an entrepreneur who then split the company up and stripped the assets and sold them off. So yes, there is potential value in the step you are considering – but beware and make sure you learn from the mistakes of others first.
My wife keeps telling me I don’t listen and my performance feedback at work is that I need to develop more self-awareness. What can I do?
Self-awareness is the ability to see clearly what is happening in your head. Worldwide research into management and leadership indicates that developing good self-awareness is critical attribute for today’s manager. If you are reasonably self-aware you are likely to make better decisions as they are based on reality rather than what you think is happening.
The challenge is how do you approach improving your self-awareness? good start is to focus on improving your listening skills, both externally and internally. By listening properly you will be able to focus on the actual message rather than colouring it with your own thoughts and preconceptions. You could also consider getting good mentor who would be able to help you reflect on issues in real way so that you see what is actually happening.
Another approach would be to seek 360-degree feedback from people around you. This will help you get an independent perspective on your behaviour and performance. Another initiative would be to go on suitable course. There are some good ones around where you first gather some 360-degree feedback from colleagues and then the course focuses you on building appropriate listening and other awareness building skills. psychologist or appropriately trained person then works with you individually after reviewing the 360-degree feedback and observing you for few days on the course. This approach can often open new doors for people.
Finally you could also consider just taking some time out for reflection. That is quietly looking at an issue or situation and allowing yourself to become more aware of all its attributes.

Address your problems to Kevin Gaunt at: [email protected]
Kevin Gaunt, FNZIM, FAIM, is CEO of NZIM Auckland and has been senior executive with, and consultant to, some of New Zealand’s largest companies.

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