Business Irish

Monday 17 December 2018

Six top tips to reshape your organisation's structure

 At various points in the evolution of a business, consideration should be given to a more formalised structure that removes any ambiguity. (Stock image)
 At various points in the evolution of a business, consideration should be given to a more formalised structure that removes any ambiguity. (Stock image)

Alan O'Neill

When a business is founded at the kitchen table, decisions and actions are taken usually by the one or two founders. There is no doubt about who does what because roles and responsibilities are clear-cut. As the business grows to more than a handful of people, ambiguity can seep in.

That can be as a result of miscommunication, incorrect assumptions, egos, or simply just lack of structure. The impact however can be missed deadlines, double-jobbing, poor customer service, lost opportunities - not to mention the risk of tension, frustration and conflict.

 At various points in the evolution of a business, consideration should be given to a more formalised structure that removes that ambiguity - the sooner the better. David Leydon is head of food and agriBusiness with financial advisors Ifac. "I work with many exciting Irish businesses.

The ones that grow fastest are those that are organised, have a professionally structured management team and work really well together" said David.

Efficient Farm Solutions

David introduced me to Efficient Farm Solutions, a Mullingar-based company specialising in automation and agri-innovations. They are famous for robotic milking, feeding and cleaning equipment. Founded in 2013 by Alan Heaney and Niall McGauran, they have an intimate knowledge of animal health, nutrition and agri-business. Not only are they both sons of farmers and part-time farmers themselves, they have a total of 40 years' of industry experience.

They have formed a new company called Animal Health Monitoring Systems. This is a sales, marketing and customer support company for high-quality agri-tech products that they source elsewhere. One product is a device that monitors the health of cows, measuring their activity and rumination. The other product is a device that is inserted into the cow's stomach to monitor temperature and pH. Displayed on an app, this information is particularly helpful and the farmer has his entire herd in his pocket.

Recent Challenges

As their group continues to grow, their products and range of services has expanded. The customer base has been added to and the team now stands at 23. But they're not done yet.

They are always on the lookout for new products and services. "We have a solid customer base, a great team and an efficient infrastructure. We know we can leverage our reach and our cost base by selling more products to our existing customer base," said Alan.

They want to have even more control of their own destiny and of course they want more margin. Keen to mitigate the reliance on external sourcing, they founded Farmofy which is dedicated to developing their own products. It requires investment in R&D and also requires them to develop new skill sets and to refresh their organisation structure.

Tips on Shaping your Structure

1: Refine your North Star. Before you start thinking about best structure, start with strategy (North Star). This will determine whatever structure is appropriate. It's not the other way around. For example, the introduction of an R&D function to a traditional sales and marketing firm requires a new box on an organisation matrix.

2: Draw an organisation chart, focusing on functions and roles only. Be objective and consider what are the appropriate functions that will drive the business to achieve its North Star. Show each box separately, even though in some smallfirms , individuals might have responsibility for more than one box. If your head of sales also looks after marketing, show them as separate boxes. The purpose of drawing them individually brings focus and clarity and may encourage you to think differently about who does what.

3: Then and only then, decide who is the best person for each role. The classic mistake made by firms of all sizes is to start with the list of people's names. Just because J Bloggs has been doing a job for X number of years, doesn't mean that s/he is the right person.

4: Draw up a role guide (job description) for each person. To bring clarity and to ensure accountability, write down what you expect from each role. Do this after step 3. In so doing, don't be surprised if you change your mind about some names in boxes.

5: Communicate this to everyone. Ensure that all relevant people inside and outside the organisation know who is responsible for each function. This is especially important if you make changes.

6: Provide training for new appointees. Whether as a result of this exercise you have changed a role or simply refreshed it, consider what training is required to get them up to speed as quickly as possible.

Summary

Even the big corporates with their many resources can get structure wrong, resulting in double-jobbing and tasks being overlooked as they fall between stools. A classic example is where a person is promoted and continues to do all the tasks they were doing in the old role. Can you imagine the frustration in that team?

Don't think that this phenomenon only applies to big corporates. As well as supporting them, my team and I have also supported SMEs with similar challenges where they too struggle to see the wood for the trees.

Rebooting your structure will add real value and reduce waste, regardless of what stage your business is at.

Check back next Sunday, to read about one of the largest recruitment companies in Ireland, that provide their services to employers for free.

  • Alan O'Neill, The Change Agentalanoneill.biz. Contact Alan if you'd like support with your business. Business advice questions for Alan can be sent to sundaybusiness@independent.ie

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