How can we create better organizations that make it easier for us to get things done with superior results? One approach is "virtual reorganization," which avoids the pain of moving, merging, and splitting boxes on an org chart. So-called "physical reorganization," where groups are moved from one function to another, sometimes without the benefit of understanding the implications of the realignment, can be disruptive. While it sometimes makes for smoother operations, all too often it doesn't -- and it's hard to do. This proves particularly true in those organizations that are governed by rules, regulations, tenure, and a plethora of other bureaucratic restraints.
Yet swamped by a common crisis, nearly everyone, in nearly every sector, is in the process of reorganizing. No choice but to change, but how?
This series of reports on reorganization reflects our recommendations for how to do this easily and effectively in three steps.
First, visualize the organization. Produce a clear and comprehensive picture of the existing organization, visible to everyone involved (NetAge Report #1: The Digital Reorganization Chart).
Next, analyze what you've got by carefully examining the existing organizational design (NetAge Report #2: Analyze the Organization as a Network).
Finally, reorganize on the basis of thoughtful study. As changes are proposed and made, visualization and analysis go hand in hand, giving people both right brain and left brain ways to grasp both the whole and the details.
In NetAge Report #3: Virtual Reorganization, which we're posting here, we offer three strategies that help bureaucracies become more like networked organizations, gaining the benefits of reorganization without enduring the pain. These "virtual reorganization" strategies complement rather than replace hierarchy. They allow organizations to flexibly address pressing issues, improve results, and reduce costs as alternatives to or together with physical reorganization.
A good example of a virtual reorganization has just come up with the establishment of the new White House Task Force on Working Families led by Vice-President-elect (only six more days) Biden. This new network layer connects existing hierarchical positions into a new configuration. You can see this task force, and the DNI, in this version of our US Gov + Task Force map.
Here, then, NetAge Report #3:
At the end of December, 2008, President-elect Obama’s pick for Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton, made two critical picks of her own, naming dual deputy secretaries. James Steinberg, who served in the Bill Clinton administration as deputy national security adviser, will oversee foreign policy issues while Jacob Lew, Office of Management and Budget Director in the same administration, will have responsibility for day-to-day operations.
The decision to create two deputies signals a reorganization of the State Department. Naming two deputies is not only a departure from the current organization at State, but it is highly unusual with regard to all the current departmental org charts. Notably, however, two deputy chiefs of staff in the Executive Office of the President, Mona Sutphen and Jim Messina, were in the first wave of staff picks in mid-November. These actions are part of the impending “physical reorganization” of government, changes made by adding, moving, and merging boxes on an org chart. And that’s the way most reorganization happens—by rearranging the boxes.
During the same pre-Christmas news cycle, the transition team announced another kind of reorganization, naming a new White House Task Force on Working Families to be led by Vice President Biden. This coordinating body includes the secretaries of Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Commerce, along with the directors or chairs of the National Economic Council, Office of Management and Budget, Domestic Policy Council, and the Council of Economic Advisors. The task force connects existing leadership positions—and by extension their organizations—into a new configuration, an example of the “virtual reorganization” of government. Instead of moving boxes, virtual reorganization connects them.