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Use Amex as inspiration as you check out journey ahead

Get your vision right under a new North Star first and then let it guide you to a revamp of the necessary structure, roles and reporting lines


American Express t has reinvented itself to become one of the top charge-card companies in the world today. Photo: Getty Images

American Express t has reinvented itself to become one of the top charge-card companies in the world today. Photo: Getty Images

American Express t has reinvented itself to become one of the top charge-card companies in the world today. Photo: Getty Images

American Express started out delivering mail across the US on horseback and then evolved over the years.

Remember American Express traveller's cheques?

With travel at its core, it has reinvented itself to become one of the top charge-card companies in the world today. Virgin is another great example of an organisation that has diversified and evolved over the years.

Market dynamics can dictate the need for a restructure of your organisation chart. Changes to customer habits, new legislation, reducing manufacturing costs and technological advances can all combine to force the need for change.

When the market dictates it, survival and growth may well depend on your ability to adapt and possibly reinvent yourself.


Corporate history has many such examples of organisations adapting to their market and successfully reinventing themselves. In the case study below you'll see that Triangle Computer Services started out selling equipment, mainly IBM systems. From the outset, it had a clear vision, DNA, strategy, structure, great people and a suite of services to cater for its chosen market. As the market changed over time, it too adapted its business model from selling equipment to full professional and managed services. And the business grew every year.

Change like this is not easy and blurred lines can often emerge in terms of roles and responsibilities.

Organisational change like this is more effective when it is planned, taking due consideration for the impact of the change on people, products or services, route to market, branding, processes, costs and profitability. Triangle took time out recently to re-evaluate and look back in at itself to ensure it is best structured for its next phase of development.

Steps to take in restructuring

1 Discover: Discovery is about taking time to take a fresh objective look at the business and to better understand the business model, culture, route to market, the current structure, reporting lines and job roles. We did this in a number of one-to-one interviews with team members - to get their views on what is working and where there might be confusion or overlap.

In such projects, I regularly pick up on negative vibes and resistance to change. I found the opposite here and was pleased to discover some very strong attributes such as customer-focus, willingness to change and great pride in the organisation.

Triangle has a very low turnover of people.

2 Design: The answer to 'Which comes first, the chicken or the egg?' is easy when deciding on structure. Structure (who does what and who reports to who) is only relevant when the vision and the strategy for the business is carved out. Taking time out with the senior management team in Triangle, we started by crafting a new 'North Star' for the business. Once that was agreed, we identified the gap between the current structure (in discovery) and the ideal one required to deliver the new strategy.

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We shaped an organisation chart that focused not on names but on roles and reporting lines at first. The appropriate individuals' names were then added once the new structure was finalised. It's essential to do it this way rather than be influenced by personalities and company history. Just because someone has had a particular role for years, should not suggest that with a refreshed North Star, they automatically continue in that role.

3 Deliver: The new vision, strategy and structure then needs to come to life. This starts with communicating it to your people (and to customers if that is relevant). This brings great clarity to an organisation as individuals get comfort from knowing who they report to and the path for succession.

4 Develop: A new structure like this takes time to bed in. Once the organisation structure is defined, it's important to rewrite the role guides (job descriptions) for each role. Individuals need to know exactly what is expected of them, what competencies are required to fulfil the role and what the measures of success are.

The Last Word

I have been privileged to support many organisations over the years to refresh their strategy, culture and structure.

It's an inclusive process that takes due consideration of all key stakeholders. It starts with understanding the market and competitive context for the change. But it doesn't stop with the changes that are outlined above.

In a business that is so dependent on people being motivated and skilled, there is more to do. Communications is a key enabler of successful change.

Triangle is also developing a new communications plan which includes a timetable of defined team meetings, one-to-one review meetings between managers and their teams and a holistic learning and development plan. That will be key to embedding the new structure.

Check back next week for a two-page interactive training course. I will provide tips on how to increase your sales with great customer experience, featuring excerpts from my new book, Premium is the New Black.

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