September 4, 2014

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Realignment from the Top of the Pyramid

Here is an experience which has totally changed my perception of strategy.

Early on, in my career, I was fortunate enough to be part of a strategic makeover exercise for my employer. And we had the good fortune of getting a review done by the management guru, Dr. C K Prahalad.

A lot of effort was put into analyzing the as-is and to-be scenarios and in arriving at the new org structure to achieve our growth vision. Being the patient listener he is, Dr. C K Prahalad, listened to all of our plans and said that he would share his point of view the next day.

All of us were expectantly waiting for his critique on our blue print and his pearls of wisdom to convert the same into a vision for the future.

The day commenced with Dr. C K Prahalad suggesting that we start with a game as a starter session. He told us to assemble in the lawn outside the conference room within a given circular boundary. We then embarked on a multi stage exercise (within the confines of the circular boundary).

In Stage 1, we had to align ourselves with one other person in the team and remain equidistant from him/her. He then got hold of our CFO and walked a few paces along with him and then stopped. As they walked, we also walked (as some of us had aligned with our CFO, others had aligned with each other and so on). It took us a minute or so to settle down.

In Stage 2, we had to align ourselves with two other folks in the team and remain equidistant from both of them. He then got hold of our COO and walked across to the other end of the circle and then stopped. As they walked, we also kept walking (there were some circular references in the persons identified). It took us over 2-3 minutes to settle down (it seemed as if we were going on and on).

In Stage 3, we had to align ourselves with three other folks in the team and remain equidistant from all of them. He then got hold of our CEO and walked around the circle and finally stopped at the same spot from where he started. This time around, we kept walking and walking and never settled. He stopped us after 5 minutes and told us that this is restructuring.

Boy! Did the light dawn on us!!

Actual org alignments are more intense with people having to deal with personalities, cultures, teams, etc.

He then drew parallels with the age old discipline of medicine.

When somebody has the flu, the Doctor gives him a placebo and ensures that the patient gets cured within a week instead of taking seven days (psychological intervention).

When the flu does not subside, the doctor conducts a blood test and then prescribes some antibiotics and drugs (physiological intervention).

Only when there is no response to the drugs, does he/she conduct a CT Scan and plan out a surgery (anatomical intervention).

A psychological intervention could be likened to modification of KPPs as most people behave as they are measured.

A physiological intervention could be likened to modification of workflows and processes (efficiencies and effectiveness).

On the other hand, anatomical intervention is similar to changing the very structure of the organization.

On this note, he left us with some very loaded questions…

If doctors opt for surgery as the very last resort, why do we start any strategic makeover with org restructuring?