Merge's Blog

A real-life example of successful organizational change

Last week, Rob, Senior Vice President at a major oil and gas company, guested on Turning Managers into Leaders, talking specifically about how organizational change needs to be implemented differently today than it was done ten or fifteen years ago.  Rob is back today to continue the dialogue by offering a specific example of how change should be implemented today.

FaceQuestionMark2Let’s have a look at an example of this “new way” that I referred to in my last post.  In a recent major change that I was part of, I set out a case for change and some initial thoughts but the details of the case were extensively debated and shaped at my leadership table.  This included a high level structure but more importantly key values and objectives.  This was all done without any of the participants knowing what roles they would have in the “new world”! Sure, it takes a level of maturity of all those involved for this to happen, but I firmly believe we got a better product than I could dream up on my own, and nobody was being territorial because they didn’t know what territory was theirs!  I finally staffed “level 1” only once we were set to move to the next stage.  And the next stage was to bring in the next level of leaders to further shape and refine – with the same personal uncertainty for them.  This process was repeated a third time during which the final structure was set and staffed.

Along the way, however, the fact that change was coming was public knowledge!  The entire organization was aware of what was going on.  They had opportunities to input and more importantly provide their personal desires – not that they would automatically get what they wanted, but at least their desires were on the table when decisions were being made.  And through it all, I needed our people to continue to deliver the business in this time of uncertainty.  That was a risk, but I’m glad I took it.

The whole process took nine months with “everybody” in the know for six of those nine.  We delivered the business goals during that time.  The new organization went live as planned and within a few weeks was running smoothly.  I wouldn’t claim there were no hiccups or this is the panacea approach for every organizational change but it sure worked this time.  As leaders we are always challenged to come up with the “right way” and my thesis remains that the “right way” is always changing.

Good luck with your change!

As I mentioned last week, Rob is in a very senior position with his current organization, so there are some sensitivities involved, and he has asked that I keep his contribution to the blog relatively anonymous.  But … do you have any examples of well-managed change?  Or do you have some alternate perspectives from what Rob has shared?  Would love your thoughts to keep the dialogue going!  Please comment below.


  • Are you able to give more specifics?
    1.Did you initially just dissolved all titles, lines of reporting, responsibilities and just tell all senior staff they were all working from one pool?
    2. Who made the assignments for work loads, responsibilities, deliverables?
    3. Who assigned junior staff to work under senior staff? Who took on what jobs?
    4. How did they sort themselves out to achieve level 1, then level II, then level III. Are these levels hierarchical, and if so which way does the hierarchy increase?
    5. Since no one knew their area(s) of responsibility, how did they know what their goals were, and how did they meet goals, as you have said you did?

    I am intrigued by what I think you did, but give me more information if you are able. I would love to dissolve our senior management team reporting lines, and start all over again. What we have in place now is not working, but there needs to be some level of reporting at the top level, and their needs to be authority of projects vested in some people, and there needs to be someone responsible/accountable for meeting client needs, demands, etc.

    Thank you.

  • Lilia – thanks for your comments.

    I’ll try and answer some of your questions.

    First to put the whole change in context. The existing organization (and the deliverables they were on the hook for) did NOT change while we embarked on the design for the new world. That is, the people who were working on a new design, with no knowledge of their role in it, did still have accountability for the old. The establishment of new deliverables and the transition of any outstanding items only occurred at the every end and all “old” ones were completed or handed off at that time.

    Generally y the levels are hierarchical with level 1 reporting to me, 2 to the 1s and 3’s to the 2’s.

    The level 1 assignments in the new world were decided by me but only after a lengthy collaborative exchange with the entire team.

    Level 2 was then put together by the level 1’s looking at the total company needs and staff development opportunities This required “best for company” thinking as opposed to the alternative of leaders trying to “stack” their individual areas. I endorsed their choices.

    Level 3 was then done by 1 and 2.

    Once all staffing and key responsibilities were set, the deliverables for the new world were developed. Meanwhile the old world deliverables remained. This transition with people wearing 2 hats lasted about 2 months. This “transition planning was key to our success.

    Hope this helps!


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