As the geopolitical and business environments continue to shift rapidly, communications leaders tell us they wonder whether their org structures need to change, too. They worry about efficiency and their functions’ ability to support organizational priorities. This is when the word “restructure” starts getting thrown around. It seems like an enticing option for leadership teams. Some leaders are new to their role and have a new vision of what the team needs to look like. Others just want a shake up to ensure they’re keeping up with the times.
Here are 3 pieces of insight I often provide clients in our org structure conversations:
Structure Has 3 Components
Structure is so much more than an org chart. And yet, when I ask to see a client’s structure, a lonesome chart is what I get in most cases.
A function’s structure actually consists of 3 components :
- Org chart: That’s the skeleton of the team and mostly tells us what departments sit within the function and who reports into whom. The chart is the most rigid part of the structure. So, as long as it reflects that people are organized around the correct priorities, it’s better to leave it alone. Shifts in the org chart tend to be consequential and stressful for teams, so they need to be a last-resort solution to problems.
- Operating model: This is where we get the scoop on what’s really going on on the team. An operating model, such as an agency, COE, or shared services, tells us how work gets accepted into the function and then makes its way through the team. Simply put, it’s the story of how work gets done. You can spot and address most inefficiencies by focusing here. A lot of communications leaders don’t have their operating model sketched out, and that’s a missed opportunity.
- Governance: The manual a leader creates, or hopefully co-creates with their team, to help them navigate the operating model. It contains useful information on prioritization methods, handoff procedures, sign-off processes, etc. Lack of governance clarity could create confusion and decision paralysis that slows the whole team down.
Restructure Roles, Not Charts
23% of participants in the 2022 Gartner Communications Organization survey said that they restructured to reduce duplication and overlap across their teams . However, the results of the same survey show that only 17% of respondents have dedicated teams for the 14 core Communications activities we asked them about. That means that most teams own multiple, overlapping activities.
Things are looking worrisome in role definition, too. Participating leaders in the survey told us that only 31% of teams have true specialists for the 8 most common role specializations we presented them with. In some cases, most team members are expected to own most of these responsibilities. So, if you’re spotting inefficiencies, lack of collaboration, and prioritization challenges, start by pressure testing your team and role specialization.
Root Cause Before You Restructure
If your roof leaks, you’re probably not likely to burn the whole house down and rebuild it to fix the problem. Rather, you’d hire a roofer to identify the source of the leak and work together to repair the damaged part. So, I beg you, don’t burn down your structure, either! Spending time analyzing the origin of your challenges will pay off and potentially spare your team a rushed and painful transition. Problems tend to fall in three buckets: process-, team-, or output-related . Gartner has created a useful infographic that helps you identify the most effective structural levers to pull to solve most of these common issues (Gartner subscription required).
Redoing your org chart to respond to internal and external pressures is an old-school, limiting approach to problem solving. Change is an opportunity for communications leaders to build more nimble and strategic teams – take your time to revel in and explore it.
 Before You Blow Up Your Org Chart, Read This
 The State of Communications, 2022: A Tightly Interdependent Function, or a Poorly Organized One?
 Infographic: 9 Alternatives to Blowing Up Your Org Chart
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