The last day before the Christmas holidays, top management presented a reorganization of the company. Two of the three divisions will be merged, and then cut apart in another direction. It is like cutting a cake sideways instead of longways. It is fanfared with all the usual “leveraging strengths” and “stronger focus” and “driving profitability” buzzwords.

The key objective seems to be to serve the key customer industries better, at the expense of the lesser ones. It looks a lot like 80/20 thinking – the fact that 80% of the revenue typically is generated by 20% of the customers. However, 80/20 thinking has one flaw and that is the dynamic aspect – the evolution over time. The top ten customers today are not the top ten customers of ten years ago. Even in a slow business like mechanical components business, the landscape changes fast and a company that will be our key customer in five years is a marginal customer today. One of the thousands. And there is no way knowing which one it is.

On the other hand, there are undoubtedly advantages of the new setup. In some sense, the organization looks a little less complex, at least from the top. I believe in clear mandates and that seems more uniform across the board, which is good.

Many cynics are critical of reorganizations, because it is never really clear that it brings any advantage at all at the workfloor. It is often seen as a useless exercise by managers who want new titles. However, every organizational setup has strong and weak points, and it foces different people to work together, while they still know people in another part of the organization. In that sense, a reorganization is a way to strenghten the informal network, through enforcing new reporting lines and new colleagues, while people still see their old colleagues for coffee and gossip.  Therefore, I think that it is good to stir in the kettle once in a while.

An aside here, and advice for future reorganizing champions: Don’t announce before holidays. Then the worrisome among us will have sleepless nights when they need to reconnect with their family and friends. Do you think they will talk well about your company? Is this the advertisement you need? Do you think it is right to deprive them of their well-deserved time off from a demanding job?
Of course you yourself will see less torment, so you may sleep better after presenting your plans just before a long break…