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  • Mark Shaw

90% of Organisational Change is in the systems and processes.

In a recent presentation, Dr Beatrice Hofmeyr, an organisational change expert, highlighted that 90% of organisational change relates to systems and processes rather than changes in role definitions and reporting relationships.

While I agree with Dr Hofmeyr, my experience suggests 90% of management time attention relating to organisational change is generally spent on changes in role definitions and reporting relationships rather than improvements in systems and processes.

As Dr Hofmeyr says, while important from time to time, an organisation restructure will not improve productivity as much as improvements in the systems and processes will.

Dr Hofmeyr also argued, it is generally the people doing the work who best understand the current roadblocks in the systems and processes and how to best remove them. This view is not new. Edwards Demming, the father of quality management championed this from the 1950’s onwards saying, “the system designed by management is responsible for 85% of unintended consequences”. Ricardo Semler did so in the 1980’s and 1990’s, and Ken Miller, author of “We Don’t Make Widgets”, has supported similar sentiments for the past 20 years.

Rather than managers and leaders focusing on the organisation chart, roles and reporting relationships, I’d argue they should follow the lead provided by Demming, Semler, Miller, and Hofmeyr and spend more time allowing their staff some time, space, and resources to find ways they can unclog their own systems and processes.

As an example, I was discussing a problem with a friend who said she cannot get enough volunteers for her community organisation because of ‘volume of paperwork volunteers must complete and manage’. In discussing this problem, it became very clear that, while well meaning, the systems and processes they used could be easily redesigned to reduce this problem. My friend is now left with the next problem of organisational change; deciding whether to make the change.

A major area where productivity improvement can be achieved is HR. The systems and processes used are often bureaucratic, compliant-based, and time consuming. The evidence is clear that significant opportunities for improvement can be found in simple changes in HR systems and processes. Personally, I have created simpler solutions for 36 HR processes that deliver the required outcomes at up to 80% less time, effort, and cost.

Focusing on transforming the systems and processes where 90% of organisational change best impacts is relatively easy. Like my friend, the only problem you have is deciding when to make the change.

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