The TASC List: Strategic sizing

Of course organizations are dynamic things. They grow, flex, and change. Our March 6 column was titled “Effecting Change” and its conclusion was simply: it’s not easy, but it can be done. We offered some paths to make it happen from a school board and superintendent /CEO point of view.

Now we will look at a systematic approach to reducing organization redundancy, inefficiency, and underproductive resources. This is directed at the process and procedure level, functional segment, or departmental mission. We have in mind both town and school operations.

In effect, it’s a decision table that one enters at the top and then proceeds downward through a series of gates or filters, searching at all times for candidates that can be downsized or otherwise reassigned more effectively.

Let’s look at the table’s questions from top to bottom.

1) Is it essential? It must be directly associated with overall mission, growth, profitability, or competitiveness. If not, eliminate it.

2) Is it a natural consolidation candidate with another function? If so, merge them.

3) Can it be simplified, improved, or automated? If yes, take the necessary steps.

4) Can it be integrated elsewhere? Initiate a joint review with the other party and proceed in that direction.

5)  Can it be delegated or deployed (e.g., as a corollary duty or responsibility) to another operation? And do they have the requisite skills to absorb it?

As the function being analyzed filters down through this table it is continually reviewed and assessed for viability, essentiality, and best organizational placement.

We think of this approach as a laddered decision path. Starting at rung number 1), and working downward, we ask and answer the questions in order. If the bottom rung number 5) is reached and exited, then most of the remedies for process improvement, through the mechanism of organization analysis, will have been exhausted. This does not, of course, consider process re-engineering, for example, or other such methods.

Process re-engineering will normally take apart and analyze each individual element, phase, or task involved in the flow from process input to desired output, and evaluate how the components and their interactions may be improved or possibly optimized. Critical variables in the process will be framed in quantified and measurable ways to obtain desirable minimum and maximum influences to the process design objectives themselves.

Organizational analysis, by contrast, seeks to eliminate duplication of effort, remove unnecessary layers of influence and direction (e.g., management levels), assure that subordinate or secondary roles and players are not operating in ways that obstruct or reduce productivity, and concentrate attention and effort on major contributors to organization objectives.

An enterprise that continually prunes its branches and monitors its growth will flourish among competitors and reach its full potential. The questions raised at each step of the sizing exercise may prove difficult to answer, and may at first appear disruptive.

But the exercise, like an annual physical, or any other periodic examination, will likely reveal more strengths than weaknesses, and build a better platform for future performance.

We recommend this kind of continued self-assessment for all Wilton town and school departments. Its use will maximize human resources. Its discipline will drive motivation and solutions for continual improvement. Its promise will provide a road map for a Wilton future worth creating.