Thanks for your patience…

May 24, 2017

It’s been awhile – thanks for your patience. Here are Rules 5 and 6 of the 9 Golden Rules of Org Design

Be rigorous about drafting in talent – a commonly ignored rule of org redesign focus on roles first, then on people. The temptation is to work the other way – selecting the seemingly obvious candidates for key positions before those positions are fully defined. However, in “Nine tests of organization design,” Michael Goold and Andrew Campbell* counsel that org designs should “take account of the people available to lead and work in them.” It seems to me that some variables need to be considered before deciding which of these rules will work best for a given situation.

Rule 6 is to identify the necessary mind-set shifts & change those mind-sets. As the McKinsey authors point out, “leaders or organizational-redesign efforts too often see themselves as engineers and see people as cogs to be moved around the organizational machine.” It’s important to understand why we are doing the redesign, even though sometimes – understandably – people can get caught up in their own hopes and fears and beliefs rather than thinking about the way the organization needs to work and what it is facing. In our case, equity issues amongst chair positions, the ever-calling pull of operational and administrative tasks versus the need to focus on academics, and the changing nature of post secondary education are all key drivers for this review.

We need to ensure we are communicating a meaningful, compelling reason for change, role-modeling new mind-sets and putting in place tools and mechanisms to reinforce the case for change, sustain moment and build the required skills and capabilities organizationally.

As I write this, I’m conscious you are being asked to be very patient as we work through information and options that meet the deliverables, limitations and criteria set out in the project charter. There is work happening – amidst lots of other work – and you will have a full update on AGOR soon.

As always, please be in touch with me. I love hearing your thoughts on what I’ve posted.




*Campbell, A. & Goold, M. (March 2002). Nine tests of organization design. Harvard Business Review.

The 9 Golden Rules of Org Design … Rules 3 & 4

May 3, 2017

Rule 3: Be structured about selecting the right blueprint

We make better choices when we carefully weigh the redesign criteria, challenge biases and minimize the influence of political agendas. A flexible operating model has been identified as key.

Off-the-shelf solutions aren’t likely to work in redesign: the unique mix of strategy, people and other assets generally requires an individual answer to things like role definition, decision-making governance and incentives: key is to get the right set of leaders reviewing options with an open mind in light of redesign criteria established by the strategic aspiration.

Rule 4: Go beyond lines and boxes

It’s easy to be seduced by the org chart. Well, maybe only if you’re an org design nerd J How many times though, do we look at the org chart and think we understand how a place works? It is easy to ignore the other structure, process and people elements that are part of a complete redesign.

As an example, the biggest impact in a redesign came from changing the performance-management system so the CEO could see which areas were embracing change and which were doing business as usual. We need to remember to use a more complete set of levers when we redesign. McKinsey suggests that as a target: two structure, two process and two people-related redesign elements.

What do you think of rules 3 and 4?





Used with permission of McKinsey & Company.

Interrupting the Rules: whose team are you on?

April 20, 2017

It was interesting recently, working with the Faculty Association to provide updates on AGOR. At a recent Labour Management Committee update, a representative let me know that there hadn’t been enough opportunities for participation and input.

It’s a tricky place, balancing good process, timelines, resources and meaningful participation. In noticing that people at RRC are pushed, I have, perhaps incorrectly, concluded that most everyone seems to be working flat out and constantly having to choose where to direct their energy. That conclusion, in combination with aggressive timelines and limited resources for AGOR, has influenced the design of opportunities for participation: I want to make sure consultations are a very good use of your time. I wonder if I’ve misread some messages?

Consultations have involved various groups. January’s sessions included chairs, deans, directors, program and regional managers. February’s sessions included administrative assistants, academic coordinators and program facilitators. Were they designed to include multiple groups? Yes. Efficiency is part of it. But, in my experience with org design and facilitation, great value is created by having different groups of people come together and hear from each other. So many organizations end up struggling with horizontal integration that tremendous benefit comes from people who don’t often share perspectives and experiences doing that in a forum.

How does this relate to the faculty association sessions held early April? Well, I heard after the fact that some people chose not to participate in the February sessions because they felt they should have had their own sessions based on their roles or their departments.

I wish they had called. I would have liked to have had a conversation. I understand the process hasn’t been – and never will be – perfect. But choosing to not participate in a less than ideal process means your voice isn’t part of going forward. That choice illustrated for me the sense of identity that some have with their roles and the utter distinctiveness of those roles. Isn’t there more that we have in common? The other choice? Are you choosing to move forward?

Still wondering about those faculty association-supported meetings and the connection to this post? I got a number of calls and emails from people who aren’t faculty thinking the sessions were open only to faculty. I was so surprised to hear that was the assumption. This too illustrates a divide. How do we move past this and become forward-focused and solution-oriented?

You know I want to hear from you.


The 9 Golden Rules of Org Design … Rules 1 – 2

April 20, 2017

Rule 1: Focus first on longer-term strategic aspirations

Sometimes we can focus too much on deficiencies. It’s easy to get fixated on what’s wrong today and to be swayed by the vocal complaints of frustrated teams and their leaders. However, it’s important to note that redesigns that focus only on immediate pain points often end up creating a new set of problems. We need to be clear about what the redesign is intended to achieve and ensure that this aspiration is inextricably linked to strategy.

With AGOR, we are working to “create effective academic organizational structures and governance procedures that focus the College’s resources and energy on its Strategic goals. Transparency, consultation and communication are the principles that will be used to reach this purpose.” The project purpose is from the Project Charter. What are we aspiring to? The AGOR Design Principles are:

  • Quality: being able to drives a high-quality academic model and program life cycle, programs and course delivery to students, and engagement with industry.
  • Agility: agile decision-making and nimble reactions to labour market and social demands for RRC programming.
  • Accountability in the form of clarity of expectations, levels of authority and consistency of roles.
  • Sustainability to serve the College’s core purpose through effective use of resources, efficient structures and processes and alignment with academic and strategic plans and, attention to both short-term decision-making and long-term stewardship.
  • Innovation: we aspire to support value-added strategic decisions that generate revenue, decrease costs through efficiencies, reduce competitive and financial risk, create better position and performance outcomes, increase customer satisfaction and employee engagement and provide a key differentiator for RRC.

Rule 2: Take time to survey the scene

This is an area that can be seen as far too time-consuming. In our case, while we had information from pain points (August 2016) and other sources, focus group information and reports from 2010 and 2012, it was important to validate that information and see if things had changed. We found that, if anything, process and administration workload had increased in departments, that span of control was far too large in many areas to work effectively, and that there are new people in roles who required input.

As McKinsey’s report states, it’s “too easy to assume that current state of affairs is clear and we know how all employees fit into the org chart.” Getting accurate numbers is only one part of the puzzle; we need to take the time to “unearth the root causes of current pain points, thereby mitigating the risk of having to revisit them through another redesign” in short order. By comparing baseline with strategic aspirations, the goal is develop a nuanced understanding of the current organization’s weaknesses and strengths should build on.

What do you think?

On to the rest of the rules in the next post,





Rules used with permission of McKinsey & Company.



Getting Organizational Redesign Right … 9 Rules

April 20, 2017

Used with permission of McKinsey & Co.

Hi everyone – there’s been lots on this last while, preparing for and doing some org design work, connecting with some RRC staff with the help of the Faculty Association and somehow, it’s easy for the blog to get delayed. Here is a bit of background on org design, as promised. McKinsey & Company compared successful and unsuccessful org redesigns in 1,323 companies and:

“tested more than 20 common approaches and found that upward of half weren’t correlated with success. For instance, benchmarking other companies and trying to adopt some of their structural choices might be an important ingredient of successful redesigns – but there is no evidence from the research that it is.” (McKinsey Quarterly, June 2015)

So what are these 9 rules? Next blog.






ps: Please forgive formatting issues. I’m not overly proficient at WordPress and wanted to just get these next blogs out to you!

What is happening with AGOR?

March 29, 2017

A few times lately people around the College have asked if anything is happening with AGOR. There’s a lot happening actually, mostly in the background, and none of it very flashy. In a conversation recently where I was updating some people, they let me know that they didn’t realize all the components that need to be in place to do good org design. We agreed it might be a good idea to do a couple of blogs on the topic. So here we go.

When I met with some trades folks recently, we were talking about org design being like building a house, though with less tangibility. That metaphor was refined – thanks guys! – it’s much more like a renovation. My own little farmhouse was built in 1870 and, having done a few minor and a couple of major renovations, they were bang on. You try to understand your foundation, you know what you are trying to achieve and in between? lots of work. And, there are always surprises.

“Organization Design is the deliberate process of configuring structures, processes, reward systems and people practices to create an effective organization capable of achieving the business strategy.” This particular definition is by Amy Kates and Jay Galbraith (2007).

So, organizational structure is much more than moving lines and boxes on an org chart. And, of course, before you start moving things around, you really need to understand your current state. There’s actually a few things you want to do to ensure you get org design right. Next post will outline what some of those key pieces are.

Looking forward to hearing from you!


Some Take-Aways …

March 15, 2017

Lots of you have been part of our process to develop a complete understanding of all the functions currently required for our RRC academic departments – including CE portfolios and Regional Campuses – to run. Based on focus groups and information from the previous reviews (2010 and 2012), responsibilities were compiled in categories: Academic, Administrative / Operational, Strategic, Leadership, Supervision and Other.

The first group to work with that information was the Academic Research and Leaders Forum (ARLF), 17 January. We appreciated the time on their agenda and the Deans, Directors, Chairs, Program Managers and Regional Managers along with facilitators, Lori Grandmont, Tracy Cappello, Aileen Nadjuch and Arnold Boldt, did great work within a tight time constraint.

Through this work, a few key take-aways:

  • There is variation amongst academic departments, CE portfolios and Regional Campuses functions based on many factors: facility management, safety responsibilities, numbers and types of programs, numbers of direct reports to name a few.
  • Many processes used by the college are “owned” by enabling functions: IT, HR, Marketing, Student Services and others.
  • Processes and controls have contributed to significantly increased workloads in the academic areas.
  • Aspects of many processes have been downloaded to the academic area and seem to be designed for the “owner”: the names are often not intuitive, for instance.
  • Value could be added by designing processes to support the end-user and the college’s primary purpose.
  • Value could be created by shifting responsibility for many administrative functions to other roles.
  • Clarity amongst roles in the departments needs to be improved.

Here’s the spreadsheet we started with, and the one that we created following this session.


Following this work, the academic coordinators, program facilitators and administrative assistants were invited to continue the mapping of our current state. Check the next blog …

Until soon,

Project Charter

February 24, 2017

Ok, some of the AGOR documents. I’ve been meaning to get to this for some time and struggling to understand how all the pieces fit together between the blog and SharePoint and, somehow, it seems to take a while to sort it all out. Thank you for your patience.

The Project Charter. The project charter was developed to outline the purpose, key stakeholders, goals, objectives, scope, deliverables, roles, responsibilities and milestones. So far, we have shifted a couple of milestones. The executive sponsors, Christine Watson, Vice President, Academic and Debbie Frankel, Vice President, Finance and the Project Leads, Arnold Boldt, Executive Director, Academic and Lori Grandmont, Chief Human Resource Office, signed the charter 20 January 2017.

In consultations and conversations, we have openly talked about the opportunities through the Academic Governance and Organizational Review as well as some of the challenges and constraints. Some of those constraints, the timeline, for instance, has meant that the consultation work primarily involves each group building on the previous group’s work. More on that – and documents – in the next blog.


Touching Base…

February 24, 2017

As I’ve been out meeting with many of the Red River College community face-to-face, there’s so much I’m learning about this institution and the people who make it what it is.

  • Tremendous dedication and passion to educate students and prepare them to be successful in their chosen fields
  • Considerable frustration with processes and systems that don’t always support the college’s primary purpose: to educate students and prepare them to be successful
  • Willingness to help. The number of people that connected with me with offers of help, interest in getting involved and suggestions, confirms the commitment and dedication to what we do.

Thanks for this and more very soon. Looking forward to hearing from you,



January 31, 2017

How will be working? How will the work of AGOR be done? This is one of the most frequent questions I am asked.
We are trying to be transparent. We are trying to involve the people who need to be involved. We are trying to do this in a very tight timeframe. We don’t have all the answers but we know that there are improvements that can be made. The two reports, from 2010 and 2012, identified a number of themes and issues, providing recommendations for changes. Both reviews fell short on implementation.
We aren’t going to change everything overnight and we aren’t going to improve academic processes and re-engineer systems, change structure – components of organizational design – alone. Sometimes I think of organizational change as a relationship. You’ve built things a certain way for 10 or 15 years and you recognize some things aren’t working for where you find yourself now. Of course, the change is uncomfortable. Most uncomfortable can be asking what we are doing that isn’t working for others. Change tends to happen incrementally. That’s the way we need to think about AGOR too. What can we tackle first? What’s most important to tackle? How can we work together to do that?
I’d love to hear from you.
Until next time,