Organizational Pruning Promotes Growth

February 17, 2015

An organization that becomes stale will fall behind competitors and eventually die. Fresh thinking and new ideas will lead it to innovation and growth. When you are green you grow, when you are ripe you rot.

Knowing when to selectively add or replace members of an already engaged team is not without risk but if done well, will ignite remaining members to look at challenges differently. We all grow stale after extended periods doing the same thing.

Pruning (the team) periodically directs growth and diverts energy to where it is most needed and away from unproductive endeavours. New blood will help sustain creativity and moving old hands to new activities will shed new light on other challenges. Left to grow too long in the wrong direction a project, like a shrub will become wild and shapeless.  Cutting back will also cause others to pick up the slack and provide the opportunity for them to shine.  

Common sense however, has it that change is disruptive and can negatively affect a team’s willingness to continue to go the extra mile. In reality however, the team will likely, intuitively, already recognise that a change to the mix is overdue. How quickly the ripples dissipate after the change will be the measure of how long overdue it was.

So how best to make the change without a negative impact?

●      Be Transparent and repeatedly communicate the values that drive your culture especially professional development and career progression.

●      Recognize too, that progress may sometimes only be achieved by recruiting outside the organization

●      Underline the importance of innovation and creativity - create an environment that supports that, with HR policy and practice aligned to enable those values to thrive

●      Treat succession and the planning of future talent as a key priority - down time, re-skilling and recruitment are highly costly and disruptive. Find ways for individuals to participate and self assess as part of this process

●      Encourage cross discipline transfers - provide appropriate training and transition support to encourage retention. Ensure that retention compensation aligns with succession plans and does not reward just tenure alone

●      Add and change responsibilities - to develop key individuals that you wish to occupy future key roles. Do not assume that the organization is a static structure. Your talent plans should rule the organization not the other way around

●      Career Development - have regular informal, discussions with individuals, discuss internal and external opportunities and allow them time to acclimate to the changes you have in mind before implementation

●      Celebrate those who concur that their best career move is outside the organization. Encourage and pursue the possibility of a return in the future where appropriate

●      Utilise all the tools at your disposal - compensation levels, position in salary grade and performance reviews are all predictive indicators of the readiness for a change from the current role

●      Consider adding competencies and defining expectations in the job evaluation process underlining how the organization values work and what that work looks like when undertaken 

●      Hire for Fit - use a funnel based recruitment process that screens for skill as well as competency and adopt a systematic interview style. Do not make decisions based exclusively on personal observations

When asked about their organization’s progress leaders will often say “we’re getting there” or “it's coming” or similar expression that describes the journey and not the destination. There is no perfect in this endeavour, no guarantees that replacing one member of a high performing team will have a positive effect on the whole. Doing nothing however, will eventually negatively affect engagement and productivity - if you are ripe you rot! Changing team members is sometimes necessary and when this does not happen naturally, a thoughtful and planned approach is needed to mitigate damage and induce a smooth transition.

Comments

Dwight Lacey
Feb 18, 2015

Paul, Nice article and timely thoughts. I would add a thought: when I ran a team I often used the mantra "don't go blind". What we were doing was reminding ourselves that if we don't keep fresh and find new innovative opportunities or threats to our business we risked becoming stale. Our basic human nature is to get comfortable with our business model, our view of the competition and so on. By taking time regularly to bring in experts who would challenge our senior team we at least attempted to stay fresh.

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