Implementing an Organizational Structure

Implementing an Organizational Structure

When you have selected an organizational structure suitable to the conditions of your project environment, you may find some resistance to implementing it, particularly if you have a low power base. This section will give you some background to help implement a change in the cultural fabric for the project team.

Assume that the characteristics of your project as indicated by analysis using Table 1 show that a strong matrix organization would give the project the best chance of success. But long-entrenched functional managers in your organization have most of the power and outweigh project managers by a considerable margin. How do you "sell" sponsors on the idea for changing the organization to one in which the software development project manager has more power than the functional department heads? This can be a political minefield, but a few important ideas can help you navigate it.

Characteristics of Projects by Organizational Structure

First, recognize - and then convince your associates - that special project circumstances need a special organization. Stress that a project is a temporary endeavor to achieve certain goals and that this doesn't represent a permanent power shift. Sometimes the entrenched functional managers don't believe in project management concepts at all (whether they will admit it or not) because they did not rise to their position of power in the organization by using them.

Understand that any organization's culture is in equilibrium and that any change to it seems threatening. What you want is a change in overall group behavior, to recognize and accept the new organizational approach. People go through four stages when implementing a major change to their world:

1.  Awareness -  People get familiar with the terms that represent an initiative or a new process and have a perception of the accompanying issues.

2.  Questioning/understanding -  People get an understanding of what the change or initiative is and appreciate its implications and importance to their organization.

3.  Acceptance -  People have the knowledge required to be intellectually prepared and understand how the initiative affects their job and/or functional organization, and how they can contribute to the success/failure.

4.  Ownership -  People become personally committed to making the initiative successful in their department and at their job.

These stages must be passed through to achieve the change. When Stage 4 is reached, people will embrace the changes and try to make them work. Stages 1, 2, and 3 require individual attitude adjustments through knowledge. Figure 1 shows that personal power is a good approach to changing knowledge and individual attitudes toward a change. This is persuasion through expert and information power, mixed with charisma. Positional power can mandate group behavior (like having a powerful sponsor announce a change), but it doesn't have too much effect on changing individual attitudes. The impact of approaching the change from the personal power side in the lower left diminishes the farther to the upper right you go. Similarly, the impact of positional power from the upper right diminishes as you move toward the lower left of the figure. So, the cultural change problem must be approached from both directions.

The Path to Modified Group Behavior

Recognize that fear of change provides much of the resistance in most organizations. Change is scary because it involves the unknown and leaves the comfort of the status quo. Kurt Lewin proposed a model implementing cultural changes in an organization called Force Field Analysis (see Figure 2). The model basically says that there are a set of restraining forces and a set of driving forces that are in equilibrium in any cultural situation. To implement a change, you must insightfully inspect the culture to identify these forces and then take specific actions that reduce the restraining forces and strengthen the driving forces. Often this just means rewarding the behavior that you really want and not rewarding what you don't want. Rewards could be material or social, but they must directly reinforce the desired behavior. Mandating organizational changes without changing the reward structure guarantees failure. People instinctively know where their bread is buttered.

Force Field Analysis Model

Lastly, recognize that change is, by nature, disruptive. We believe that organizational changes will lead to a better situation than before the change. Critics often point to poorer performance amid the confusion of a change implementation and say that things are worse. They are generally right, but with some patience things generally do get better. As shown in Figure 3, change implementation is generally not a linear path to better performance. All change is disruptive, but it generally leads to better performance over time.

Change Implementation Effects are Nonlinear


project team, software development project, matrix organization, organizational approach
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