Are You Structured for Chaos?

By Doug Brown

If history has taught us anything, it has demonstrated that business can be disrupted, at any time, by any number of chaotic circumstances: supply chain failure, limited workforce pools, natural disasters, technology failures, economic slowdowns, or full-blown recessions. And now we can add pandemics to the list.

Traditionally, most companies create their formal organizational structures and charts for when things are stable. Whether the design is hierarchical, functional, divisional, or matrix, operations are expected to run smoothly - as long as things are functioning under normal business circumstances.

Are You Structured for Chaos?

Think about it. Just in the last decade, how often has your company needed to adapt its operations to deal with the external changes that created such chaos?

Rigid organizational structures ultimately harm a company’s ability to react to ever-present randomness. Businesses must first accept and then embrace the necessity for responsiveness to daily, weekly, or monthly chaos and its effect on operations and the wants and needs of employees and customers.

Why are too many organizations effectively designed for only a fraction of the time they operate? Instead, set up your organization to make faster decisions and to be able to execute them immediately. This statement doesn’t always require an overhaul of your company structure. A straightforward solution could be as simple as adding a floater position that takes on the current crisis – a well-versed, knowledgeable project manager without a portfolio. From my days at Procter & Gamble Manufacturing (P&G) in the 70s and 80s, we often used that idea to ensure we had the capacity we needed when we needed it.

By not adapting quickly enough, inert companies fail to tackle and handle ever-changing economic, technological, social, and market conditions. Agile organizations thrive. Instead of fighting change and offering resistance, why not adjust your organizational structure to adapt to the chaotic environment that you operate in almost every day?