First quarter sales bring second quarter ReOrgs!

The words together mean an evaluation of what the organization does with the intent of modifying the organization to better present the ideals of the organization to the world. The impact of the words is fear uncertainty and doubt.

I’ve been through a number in my career. Each of them starting with the intent of refocusing the organization. Or perhaps better aligning with the market. Or one of my favorites streamlining our systems to better achieve our cost goals. There are a million of them. In the end everyone worries. Re-Orgs sometimes = layoffs.

Layoffs can be traumatic. More in the end traumatic than being fired. You weren’t useless to the organization and a bad fit. You simply were a square peg in a round hole. I’ve been on all sides of a layoff. As a person watching the layoff from afar. As a senior person worried about friends and coworkers knowing they were laid off and struggling to find them jobs. As a manager asked to RIF or reduce my workforce and finally as someone being laid off (number 5, number 5 please approach the desk).

It’s painful in any role you are in while a layoff occurs. Making the call is hard. Being called is hard. Watching people you know and care about get called is hard. We can tell ourselves “it’s just business” and in effect it is.

Layoffs are as much a part of any economy as growth is. ReOrgs can during the retooling process create the need for layoffs. There is a great line from the movie Taken. “I have a particular set of skills…”: The next line in a reorg that can terrify you is when you manager says to you “you have a particular set of skills”

And we aren’t heading in that direction anymore.

That particular set of skills puts you at risk during ReOrgs. The bad thing is often the particular set of skills got the organization to the point they didn’t need them anymore. But in fairness there are no guarantees.

Anyway, enough talk of layoffs. The other side of ReOrgs that I find interesting is the overall patterns that are created. Not communication patterns. Rather organization patterns arise that are quite intriguing. During ReOrgs the concept of throwing people under the bus becomes interesting. Where once people that would never throw someone under the bus do during a ReOrg. They, scared for their jobs, let the bus run over people where they wouldn’t under normal day to day business.

Cliques are also worse during ReOrgs. Personally as a teacher I spent a year, every year working with my class to destroy cliques. Cliques generate very bad communication patterns. When ReOrgs surface Cliques get worse. Why? Because part of a clique is their close communication ties. When those ties are broken by moving people around, the clique either dies or becomes much worse.

Distributed cliques in the end create communication barriers. Not problems, or anti-patterns but actual “none shall pass” barriers. Cliques in my humble opinion are the biggest danger of a ReOrg. If you aren’t aware of them in your organization you can create a new org and generate barriers that prevent the transition because communication doesn’t work.

In the end the value of a ReOrg is an organization ready for the new challenge. Just be careful with laying people off that is painful and no matter what you do when you ReOrg, beware Cliques. They are lurking in the darkness can destroy not only the ReOrg but frankly the communication structure of your company.


Scott Andersen

IASA FellowP8b4!