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The Effectiveness-Lab

Employee performance optimisation – Series 4 of 4

The last three blogs in this ‘Employee Performance Optimisation’ series focused on individual and team performance optimisation, as well as the strategy for delivering the two optimisations. This blog, the fourth and last in the series, focuses on the organising structure for performance optimisation.

It is good management practice to twin strategy and structure conversations – you may be familiar with business historian Alfred Chandler’s work on strategy and structure of organisations. Alfred Chandler studied organisations in America like Sears Roebuck, General Motors, Du-Pont and discovered that when organisations change their strategy, for whatever reason, they, in turn, need to change their structure. Chandler coined the adage ‘structure follows strategy’.

HR structures - no longer Structures but Processes like a cob-web
HR structures – no longer Structures but Processes, like a cob-web

At the Effectiveness-lab, we know that effectiveness cannot be attained in isolation. Effectiveness is a system of ‘things’ that ends in a state of SMART outcomes. The so-called ‘things’ that drive SMART outcomes, in various combinations and stretches, can be any of:

  1. Leadership
  2. Strategy
  3. Design
  4. People

According to the Effectiveness-lab, all the four ’things’ above need various levels of orchestration, moreover from a common pedestal, for them to support attainment of the ideal state of effectiveness.

Three ‘things’: PeopleStrategy, and to a large extent Leadership have been articulated in series one to three of this employee performance optimisation blog series; Design, in the context of this blog structure, is discussed below.

Design (structure) is defined by the Effectiveness-lab as the organising blocks that organisations deploy to drive SMART outcomes out of their strategic manoeuvres.  Alfred Chandler defined structure as the design of the organisation through which strategy is administered

So, what is the ideal design/structure to deliver the strategy for individual/team performance optimisation discussed in blog 3?

Well, we have to start by identifying not the strategy, but the change between the old and the new strategy for performance optimisation. What change are we talking about?

The new performance optimisation strategy addresses the organisational-change realities below:

  • performance optimisation is ‘real-time’ (Just.In.Time) and not done once at year end
  • as employees work more in ‘teams’ than as ‘individuals’, HR processes need to become adept at ‘team’ and not ‘individual’ performance assessment
  • the modus operandi at the modern digital organisation, calls for new ways of monitoring and measuring ‘productivity’ at work
  • the emerging Z-generation type employee brings very different social habits to work – short ‘termism’, impatience, less personal loyalty to organisations, a keen attention to organisational climate and ‘warmth’ – overall, they are a brittle lot

The natural human resource (HR) organising mechanism is a functional HR team led by the HR Director or equivalent and below them, HR sub-functional heads like: contracting and payroll, employee relations, attendance management, etc. The fact that HR units are set up to deal with the mundane, even in 2016, says a lot about the challenge ahead, for those wanting to change the status quo. HR practitioners are yet master and contend with the realities at a fast moving digital organisation, whose employee expectations are quickly shifting from the cardinal need to earn money to:

  • feeling happy, wanted and respected at work
  • feeling challenged every day
  • not committing long term
  • not taking nonsense from traditional bosses
  • hatred for the ‘hand-cuffs’ at work style – i.e. don’t do A, B, without checking in with the boss

READ ALSO – Effective Leadership: Lessons from Facebook

The ideal structure to address the new organisation reality above:

It’s time for ‘flipped HR’ ladies and gentlemen. The new reality at the modern digital organisation shall change the way HR is managed. HR units can no longer run as individuals, with titles, placed in tiny boxes on the organisational structure map. HR units shall ‘die’, and be replaced by HR teams and processes. Teams and processes formed in an intertwined manner.  A system that is connected with the time organisations: recruit and select – contract and orient new staff – assign tasks to staff – oversee staff productivity – as well as rewarding staff. All these processes, and indeed others HR practitioners may think about, are intertwined like a cobweb and placed over entire organisational value chains

HR teams and processes can no longer work in isolation of the other organisational elements and only interface with the rest of the organisation on a demand basis. The human resource footprint shall become more ’supply’ and less ‘demand’ driven. HR processes shall become seamless elements of the organisation’s value chain. As Alfred Chandler discovered those many years ago, HR structure shall follow strategy – the modern HR realities and accompanying strategy are a unique proposition – they do ask of the modern organisation, new ways of organising

The new HR structure = a PROCESS:

HR Process vs Purpose:

Recruitment & selection = Attract the best talent to the organisation

Contracting & Payroll = legalities and Effective Reward management

Organisation & productivity = Aligning daily activities at work to organisational strategy and immediate projects/goals; Identifying 24/7, digital mechanisms to feedback employee performance, as well as one stop-shop where all performance feedback is collated – kill the annual appraisal form as it is too complex and does not necessarily add value to organisation

Organisational Climate and Staff retention = Creating the right work environment and ensuring staff ‘warmth’ and their retention – for example, create means to monitor the state of ‘psychological safety’ within teams in the workplace

Takeaway: The manner in which organisations think about their HR value-chains has to mimic the structure of a cobweb; there are lots of interconnecting variables from the: WHAT, HOW, to the WHO?  ‘Laddered’ and linear organising mechanisms are no longer fit for purpose. Effective and efficient HR practice shall work across entire organisation value chains, in a seamless and horizontal manner. Increasingly, we won’t need HR ‘warm-bodies’, but instead, HR-process team leaders that will work directly with other organisation units to institutionalise desirable HR practices.

May we soon witness the demise of the traditional HR structure and practitioner at the modern organisation? Our answer at the Effectiveness-lab, Yes!

3 responses to “Employee performance optimisation – Series 4 of 4”

  1. […] for  ‘flipped HR’ to deal with team spoilers.  HR has to step up to identify, control, or move-on team […]


  2. HR Directors, Managers and other practitioners have you heard?


    1. Seddu – and us leaders!


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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