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Strategic Organisational design

In previous blogs I have talked about organizational design. The question I want to debate here is how you start an organisational design process. My argument is that you need to start from the strategy a company wants to execute. However, as cultural elements define the feasibility of any strategy, OD needs to focus on that as well.
The bast starting point of any OD approach is asking questions. Now you can use appreciative inquiry as approach or any other kind of questions, as long as they are non-biased.
The remarkable thing is that any strategy provides you with questions you can answer from an OD perspective. And these questions give you a perspective on organizational design.  Here they are.

6 Organizational Design Perspectives

When designing an organizations there are 6 perspectives to take. Here they are:

  • Whom do we serve? This is the customer design perspective.
  • What do we want to offer? This is the product design perspective.
  • How do we want to deliver? This is the operations design perspective.
  • Who do we have on board? This is the talent design perspective.
  • What is our target? This is the result design perspective.
  • What is our purpose? This is the purpose or value design perspective.

So surely we need to base organizational design on different angles at the same time. And there are more questions to ask.

Questions to Ask.

  1. What is the basic strategic principle or strategic intent?
    There are usually three choices: customer leadership, product leadership of efficiency leadership. Which is it?
  2. What is the image of the organization towards the outside world?
    How does the organization want to appear to the customers, the public, the suppliers, the government, the shareholders or any other relevant stakeholder.
  3. What are the assumptions?
    This is a difficult question to answer. But every strategy holds some assumptions or hypotheses. Especially in this VUCA-world. How can we adapt an organisational design so that we can take those hypotheses into account whilst at the same time remain agile enough to cope with dissenting information.
  4. What are the illusions?
    Sometimes we think we have got it all right. But if we could find out which are the illusions and adapt the organisational design principles so that the illusions are neutralized?
  5. What are the risks?
    Every strategy contains risks, also in terms of organization. So should we not design an organization that detects and copes with those risks?
  6. Where are the challenges?
    An organisational design should facilitate strategy execution. So if we can detect the challenges we can find out what kind of organization design principles can help to overcome this. Very often one of the challenges is the gap between the existing culture and the desired culture.

David Ducheyne is the founder of Otolith. As a former HR and business leader he focuses now on humanising strategy execution.


  • Dale says:

    You forgot THE most important question!
    It is “why” Understanding why an organization does what it does! Profit, Success, or serving customers are a given and a result not the why you do what you do.
    I would recommend a YouTube video. Search for Simon Sinek and WHY. He explains it very concisely.

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