Why Structure Matters

Shawnee Love   •  
July 24, 2014

I was speaking recently with a client regarding their workflow and mentioned they should rethink their organizational structure.  I was merrily pointing out how their structure wasn’t meeting their customers’ needs when I noticed the confused looks and stopped to check in.

This check in helped me discover they had no idea there was more than one structure or method of organizing the work.  They assumed every company did it their way, i.e., by function.  So all sales are grouped, finance, admin, marketing and so on.

While functional organization is very common, it definitely isn’t the only structure and may not be the right one for your organization either.  You can operate divisionally (also known as either geographically, by product, or by customer), or  there are also process organizations, matrices, and even the confusing but sometimes effective network or team based structure.


This discussion about structure options and the way each enables and affects workflow ended up convincing the client to make a few adjustments and we are working through the changes and their implications for the business including new operating procedures, new reporting relationships, additional training and team building requirements, and so on.

Structure may matter for your group as well. You can tell if your structure is helping or hindering you by reviewing the bottlenecks and balls dropped and assessing whether a different model might have made a difference.

Caveat:  This is a blog about the importance of structure, but I want to emphasize that structure is one factor in how your business operates.  Your structure could be perfect but if you don’t have the right people, or you have a dysfunctional relationship between authority and accountability for example, a reorg isn’t going to make a positive difference and may in fact do more harm than good.  That is why it is important to approach any structural changes with an eye on the big picture and (shameless self promotion here) the assistance of an expert.