Organizational change/restructuring and the associated politics

The problem

Its no secret on the level of politicking one has to encounter as one meanders through the complex maze of organizational politics. Change is forever and while it may impact different individuals at different times, the outcome is key. You are measured not always by what you did but how well you play to the new environment and how adaptable you are. You will be rooted out by the system sooner than later if you do not adjust to the new structure and this happens in organizations of all shapes and sizes. How do you negotiate this as a Product manager instituting product thinking into the new management team?

Why it matters

I can share my thoughts on the ways this change occurs, causes for possible restructuring and the ways to combat it and minimize collateral damage and measure the outcome.

I have seen companies that have been truly 1-man shows even as they scale over close to a decade. They have never been privy to the collective eco system of internal organizational structures and are largely devoid of an external physical partner eco system. They still are relevant in the modern day world due to an early mover advantage but will never go the conventional 100-year corporation way because the organizational ethics, culture and the thinking is largely 1-man driven and it has a natural life span and cannot span generations like the GE’s, Ford’s, Philips’, Rolls Royce’s, Boeing’s and the Sony’s of the world.

I have also seen companies that have been built the way any Silicon valley startup begins i.e. 2-3 individuals get together, form a idea, validate their hypothesis in the market place, rapidly iterate on the idea, discard the idea because its not working, pivot, form a brand new hypothesis based on the germ of a killer real world unmet business need/idea/validate hypothesis/iterate and achieve success in adoption of the new idea, seek angel funding, start off from a garage, hire a bunch of engineers to bring that idea to a more productized form, go for more angel funding, build a team of engineers, have the CEO/CTO manage the product early on, champion the idea, test it on real customers by solving their unmet problems, build credibility with customers, have them serve as references, scale rapidly to a legit Series A funding as business expands, scale to newer arenas/target markets, expand the management team, hire a VP Product, VP Engineering, Marketing, Sales, HR, Finance, Operations, Supply chain, Professional services, hire CXO coaches, go for further expansion and get more Series funding, finally decide if the organization wants to IPO or sell out and build the organization for the long-term. This long-term thinking has its plusses.

I have also seen companies that are listed companies (post IPO stage). These have been billion $ companies that are doing well in world markets and due to technology advancements and the classic ‘innovators dilemma’ are no longer relevant in a rapidly changing mobile first cloud first world and did not innovate fast enough. These companies are reduced to USD $100MM revenue and rapidly declining market share facing increasing irrelevance.

I have seen that whenever these categories of organizations face the typical cross roads in their business structure, they flounder. Unless they have a strong mission/vision and a dynamic CEO, the organization runs into absolute chaos and a directionless strategy. More often than not, such organizations whittle away their early wins or customer base and face extinction (either due to lack of funding or lack of strong management teams or lack of a firm aligned mission/vision will indulge in an endless series of restructuring, constant layoffs, constant uncertainty and demotivated staff, and a vicious circle that leads to a completely broken organizational structure).

What to do about it? 

The key Q to ask in this entire series of events is if this can be avoided and the root cause (plaguing the problem/uncertainty/rapid change/restructuring) fixed.

Take any issue and if you trace it back to the root cause then you will observe that almost always the root cause stems from 1/3 problems below:

1. Lack of a cohesive vision at the top/turmoil at the top

2. Lack of focus due to constantly changing markets or non acceptance/saturation of product in existing markets/and the classic innovators dilemma impacting organizations ill equipped to manage change

3. Lack of top line growth drivers and a rapidly declining market share

Lets take examples from the real world for each of these to elucidate my points.

1. We have seen Yahoo! In recent years suffer from this problem with 5 CEO’s before Marissa Mayer was instated as CEO

2. We have seen Microsoft’s consumer business being impacted by rapidly changing consumer habits (smartphones and tablets vs. PC’s)

3. We have seen Nokia/Blackberry suffer from a complete whitewash due to a changing smartphone world where newer entrants demolished their marketspace

The way to counter such issues at a large enterprise behemoth level or an individual rapidly growing startup / SMB level is not to slash and burn. It is to identity the root cause of the problem and take steps to provide a solution to it. How exactly, we will find out over the next series of posts. Stay tuned!

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About Naveen Athresh
Disclaimers/Caveat: All ideas/opinions expressed are the author's own and wherever any item has been taken from a 3rd party website, the appropriate link would've been provided. The author will not be responsible for any misconstrued views/opinions arising out of the discussion contexts chosen. All links taken/referred to are the sole copyright of their owners/parent websites and the author has no relation to the content as referred to/updated in those links. The author takes no responsibility to assume that the content going on this website will be error free as it is narrated from the author's own insights/experiences/focus/group interviews/thoughts. This website does not guarantee any sort of a bias towards any particular product or company/product investment advice and anyone doing so is doing it solely at their own risk and The author assumes no responsibility for the same. Readers are firmly adviced to use their discretionary powers to judge if the content used on this website is authentic etc. after verifying it from independant sources.

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