Constant Cravings

A Signature Process

If organization charts could eat, they would be craving for digitization. For many, the HR org chart (for short) has been adorned and legitimized by many government institutions around the world as the authority on funded positions, workforce planning and complement control.   At least that was the plan. 

In truth, the HR produced org chart frequently competes with better, larger and more current versions (and sometimes older ones too) emerging elsewhere in organizations. There is no doubt: it draws attention. There are glossy charts, wall charts, inverted pyramids and even new charts unbeknownst to HR. They can situate, orient, merge, expand, align and more.  It’s great.

However, org charts can also create a lot of unintended noise. The information they contain can sometimes leave people disconnected, overjoyed, overwhelmed and even alarmed. Others quickly bury them out of sight to remain focused on the task at hand. What people think about their organization chart varies greatly but one thing rings true. It reflects the organization’s cultural tapestry. 

The org chart contains reminders of the unique history and values of its workforce, some of which, despite the disruptive changes of digitization and cognitive computing, will surely stand the test of time. The organization chart and the process that leads to its approval and management, is tightly linked to the values and beliefs that are held dear by its workforce. These values and beliefs are what differentiate organizations and storify their brand. 

For that reason, the organizational design and management process is worthy of being an organization’s signature process. It is a visual representation of the “way we do things around here”.  It provides an unparalleled demonstration of what the workforce admires, exposing a network of roles, relationships, authorities and priorities valued and nurtured.

Once Upon a Time

As an up and coming human resources officer, I remember when I was introduced to the Government of Ontario organization chart template depicting nicely organized squares on legal size paper. Filling the boxes on this template with permanent positions coupled with a few lines in the white space to clearly show hierarchies was easy and made complete sense. To give it more relevance, select details were typed à la Olivetti and voilà! It was ready for a signature to authorize data entry and “make it so”.

The organization chart template

At the time, we worked with the IPPEBS (Integrated Payroll, Personnel and Employee Benefits System).  This system stored the batched data from the organization charts with the employee data to produce a wonderful monthly position inventory. Putting aside the lag time, it all made perfect sense and worked superbly well. It was our daily go-to document (and yes, it got printed).

It was not challenged by the head wind of continuous changes in strategy and technology faced by today’s organizations, so this process did particularly well in demonstrating the value of the pragmatic, conforming, linear and traditional state of the culture.  Human Resources Officers could not help but feel the underlying Taylorism mindset, the button-down standards, the solemness.

Unconsciously, we had all become the keeper of the workplace culture because of our relationship with this core HR process. Everyone involved in managing and designing organizational structures guarded the tenor of this signature process because it represented very well “the way we do things around here”. IPPEBS was the engine for all HR processes but it was through the people who were part of this particular process that clarity of culture stood out most. I suspect that this signature process harbored values and favored behaviours that spilled over all other HR processes. It was foundational: putting in place how the mandate of the organization would be achieved while carefully guarding the values it holds dear.

Digital Appetites 

As the fourth largest industrial revolution expands, so do expectations. Producing org charts that are accurate and personalized to a leader’s needs will be essential to the digitization of all programs and services across the public sector. The databank informing decisions on how best to organize and manage the work must be able to pack and unpack the permanent, contingent, outsourced, contracted, shared as well as “AI” positions essential to the business unit. 

Considering the diversity in the way work is packaged the word “position” may not fit particularly well anymore. A “requisite” might be a more appropriate term in view of the inherent increase in workforce agility and diversity, and sourcing options. The need to develop and monitor all requisites as we do positions is reinforced by the most recent report on the future of work from McKinsey which suggests that approximately 60% of positions will have at least one-third of their work activities automated with cognitive computing. That begs serious attention.   

The impact these digital technologies will have on the way tasks are organized, functions are divided, roles are defined, leaders are serviced, and business units are resourced will be transformative.  The organizational management data will generate predictive analytics and inform policy options, budgets, resource needs, and the realignment of tasks, responsibilities and functions. With the digitization of HR, a signature process to manage the organization “chart” data makes sense because it is far reaching. This data feeds all other HR processes and is essential to recast the work across the organization in a manner that displays the organization’s most prized values and beliefs.

This signature process must clearly align with what makes public service extraordinary while being a trailblazer in complement control, organizational design and team management. It must raise the manager and executive experience to new heights and inform others with unequivocal clarity. It must simplify and spotlight what is valued in classification systems, competency models, compensation programs and position descriptions. Here is a framework of a signature process for the design and management of all position-based data – and the production of “satiated” org charts in a digitized world.

Digital transformation involves new platforms, ecosystems, and technologies that enable organizations to use data in new ways.  Seeing computing capability produce machines that can understand, reason, learn and interact with people opens a wealth of possibilities for improvement. This signature process is a good first step. It will raise awareness of such possibilities, break down the complicated stuff found in organizational management into digestible pieces – while polishing what brings pride of service.

An Introduction

The Sandbox Itch is a place to explore solutions that will help organizations to evolve in response to changes in their business space. Leaders that have an itch for something better then what is and want to stoke the flow of ideas will find this especially useful. The content blends current trends and interests with the brilliance of thought leaders, authors, and scholars from various fields and disciplines. The result is a kind, but realistic viewpoint captured through the lens of my professional experiences.