The First Set of Traditional Organizational Design Challenges

Organizational design challenges come in many forms, as these professionals discuss in this photo.

After more than 20 years of organization strategies consulting, I believe the same three challenges plague traditional organization design:

1.   Design decisions are not linked to human behavior.

2.   Design solutions are focused primarily on the individual.

3.   Design ignores the power of horizontal networks.

The first fundamental gap in the existing models is that they do not clearly link the big, macro decisions that happen at the system level of an organization to the individual and group behaviors that result. Today we talk about organizations’ ecosystems and platforms, strategy and transactions, and the operating models and capabilities needed for future success.

Organizational Design Challenges: Too Many Chefs…

In addition to the chief executive officer, we have chief strategy officers, chief transformation officers, and various business unit heads. Then, in a totally separate part of the company, we talk about workforce experience and employer brand, incentives and rewards, and hiring and retaining for the workforce of the future. Often these issues are relegated to the chief human resource officer, the chief diversity officer, or some similar title, like chief impact officer or chief people officer.

In Too Many Kitchens

These conversations occur in separate silos, as if they are completely unrelated to one another, but they are actually one and the same. The choices made on how to set up an executive team, their roles, and their accountability for profits have a direct and predictable impact on how middle managers feel and how frontline workers act. We need to use these insights early and often to create an environment where an understanding of human behavior is at the center of the design.

Bringing It All Together

Through my experience advising dozens of CEOs and hundreds of executives and team leaders on the topic of organization design, I developed the Peopletecture model to resolve these organization design issues. I teach this method in my new book: Strategies for Organization Design: Using the Peopletecture Model to Improve Collaboration and Performance. In the book, you’ll learn to:

  • Accelerate organizational transformation in a data-driven and evidence-based way
  • Make your organization’s work mean and matter more to the people doing it
  • Use insights drawn from network science, human motivation, behavioral economics, and organization theory to drive meaningful collaboration

I would love to hear from you regarding your own organizational design challenges or other professional situations, so please email me at

Order Strategies for Organization Design at your favorite bookseller: