Should I stay or should I go now?

25 08 2011

Classic, sexy seventies song The Clash.

But if this is what you are thinking about your work, how do you know when it is time to move on?

1. Have I learned what I need to know here? To misquote Dead Poet’s Society (and hence no doubt an unnamed poet), have I sucked the marrow dry? Can I demonstrate a benefit from having been here on my resume?

2. Have I done what I need to do for the organisation? It’s not great to leave in the middle of a great or risky project. Sure, it happens sometimes, the perfect job comes up at an imperfet time, and no-one is irreplaceable. But do the right thing by the organisation as well as by yourself.

3. Is there a push reason as well as a pull reason? A push reason might be a restructure, or a significant change in the organisation or its business which means your job is no longer needed or no longer what you signed up for. A pull reason might be a fabulous opportunity that has come up somewhere else.

4. Did you make a mistake? Yes sometimes in our careers we apply for a job and once we are in it realise it is not a good fit. Maybe the job isn’t how it was advertised, maybe it changes after you are there, maybe the culture doesn’t fit with your work style. The honourable thing is to move on with grace. If the organisation is open to it, you might give them notice and feedback in advance. No fault, no blame.

5. Have you stayed too long at the party? While the Postwar generation and Babyboomers often stay for a long time in positions or with the same organisation, this is increasingly becoming the exception rather than the norm. Career promotions often come from moving into other organisations rather than waiting for a vacancy to open up in your own organisation. You might not get long service leave, but you might progress faster and have a more rewarding career. And be able to share your talents with a variety of organisations.

6. If you are deeply unhappy, ethically challenged or otherwise psychologically uncomfortable. Work through what it is. It is a transient issue? No organisation is going to fit 100% with your preferences. But if you are deeply troubled by something that is happening at your workplace, then moving on could be the answer. Sadly, this is often the resolution of bullying in the workplace – the victim moves on.

7. Give some thought to how your resume looks. If you are moving on every couple of years – or worse, every couple of months – then you have a problem in your resume, and maybe you have a problem in your work expectations or your choice of jobs. No good jumping from the frying pan to the fire – employers are looking for some stability, even if you are Gen Y.

I debated putting something here about reasons not to move, but if you are happy and fulfilled in your job, you probably aren’t reading this. And even if you are, you know you are in the right place.

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to restructure or not to restructure…

30 07 2011


That is the question.

Often a new executive or manager coming into an organisation will restructure. This has the effect of looking like a “go-getter” action sort of person who is getting things done, addressing the issues and making changes.

International literature indicates that a restructure hold an organisation back by 12 months. A merger or demerger has an 18 month impact. For that period of time staff are busily working out their roles in relation to others, reporting structures, remaking committee structures and reporting lines, budget lines and delegations, policies and procedures, remaking relationships with other units – a significant productive-work-time cost. While time is spent reforming the organisation, other innovations get put on hold. Meanwhile your competitors may be working on their product and service innovations.

On top of that there may be direct financial costs: new staff and executives, new letterhead, business cards, websites, signage. The effect on staff of restructures and particularly frequent restructures is cynicism and change-fatigue (leading to change-resistance), particularly if a “spill and fill” methodology is employed. Such a method can also cost significantly in payouts for those who are retrenched as part of the restructure.

So why would you restructure? It is not always a bad idea – sometimes restructures can make a quantum leap for the organisation.

1. When the current structure doesn’t actually work. This may be because the industry has changed, but it may also be that the current structure has grown over time rather than having been designed to fit organisational outcomes.

2. To align with the CEO’s mental map. For the CEO to have a good grip on the organisation and an understanding about work flows and process flows, it does need to align with their mental understanding of how organisations work. This is probably the least easy reason for staff to understand.

3. To cut costs through significant savings. As noted above, there are very significant costs inherent in a restructure, so the savings predicted by the new structure need to be significant. As opposed to the immediate costs of a restructure, the benefits can flow long-term – providing you aren’t going to restructure next year and the year after….ad infinitum. Cost savings might be realised through eliminating a unit or function, or through merging two or more units. However these need to make sense from an organisational point of view – eliminating the R&D section because they are costly and not directly linked to an income stream is not going to help the organisation long-term.

4. If the industry or the goals have moved. If the organisation is undergoing significant change in purpose, a restructure might be necessary to change the direction. When Nokia changed from manufacturing rubber boots, cables and consumer electrical products into focussing on electronics, it would have been necessary to restructure to meet the needs of the new industry.

Have you been through a restructure, merger or split recently? Has the dust has settled, has it worked? Did it achieve what it was meant to achieve? Was the process well managed?

When organisations turn cannibal

21 07 2011

Many years ago I worked for a boss who fits all the criteria for “psychopath in the workplace”. He, and the place I worked, shall remain nameless for the purpose of this blog! (Disclaimer: If one of my former bosses is reading this and worried it is them – the fact you are worried means it is not you.)

This man ran a small organisation with four different operational arms. I can only suspect he was worried about his managers getting together and overthrowing him (much as he had done to the previous CEO) because the culture he encouraged was for each of the managers to attack the other managers’ units as a way of deflecting attention and negative focus from their own. To say that the organisational culture in this workplace was toxic is an understatement. When a manager came through your office you hid whatever you were doing and said nothing of any value to them at all. Non-cooperation was the order of the day. Staff turnover was endemic – people couldn’t get out of there fast enough.

Years later I had risen through the ranks and happened to work alongside one of the “other” managers from this workplace. Her view on the experience was illuminating. She did what she had to do to survive and to keep her staff safe – as we all did. Imagine how effective the organisation could have been if everyone had been focussed on achieving organisational goals instead of cannibalising each other.

So a recent Forbes India article about leadership intrigued me. There were of course the usual “bad” manager types (Sociopaths, Opportunists and Chameleons) but one of the “positive” leadership types – Achiever – also had some cautionary tales attached to it.

The Achiever, according to the article, is highly prized for reaching goals and achieving outcomes. However, they tend to have a shorter term, insular view of their goals. An example given was shutting down investment in R&D as a cost-saving measure. Very effective in the short-term, but ham-strings the organisation in the medium to long-term.

Another example is where the achiever is competing against internal competitors. They do things that benefit their unit (and disadvantage other units) without understanding or perhaps caring about the broader organisation. Short term personal gain – their unit is working well, they may look good – but causing problems for the organisation.

Management book “Think One Team” uses the example of a jelly bean company (one of my former staff called the book “Jelly Bean Dreaming”) to illustrate how silos that compete against each other and don’t have an organisation-wide view actually work against the company.

While silos exist for a reason – the coalition of like services into units makes sense organisationally – silos that don’t see themselves as achieving for the whole organisation, or worse, compete with each other and actively disadvantage each other, equal a dysfunctional organisation.