The work of organization design benefits from a thoughtful, inclusive process where leaders can iterate and explore alternatives and align on a path forward. The reality is that tight deadlines, fear of broad involvement, and a too-narrow view of the problem to solve or potential solutions often threaten to derail good design decisions.

We see 10 common pitfalls to avoid or manage for effective project outcomes:


Pitfalls Consequence
1.       Inadequate assessment of the current state •        The problem to solve is unclear or wrong

•        Solutions may not address root causes

•        Increased resistance to change – no case for change

2.       Executives not aligned on the problem to solve •        Key contact may not be the real client; spin and churn due to working at the wrong level or in the wrong place

•        Project becomes HR or consultant work versus a leadership initiative

•        Implementation undermined

3.       Lack of design criteria •        Waste of time and resources developing options not centered on business growth needs or problems to solve

•        Lack of clarity around how the new organization design will be better than the status quo

4.       Insufficient stakeholder engagement or input •        Design work moves fast at beginning, but implementation stalls due to lack of buy-in needed for change, increased resistance

•        Team may miss key intelligence about barriers or critical success factors

5.       Structure solution only •        Changes do not stick as processes, metrics, and reward mechanisms still reinforce old ways of work

•        Sub-optimized results as employees struggle to deliver on new expectations

6.       Redesigning functions in isolation •        Increase in unrewarded complexity and frustration in markets and business units as functions change without an overall enterprise framework to guide decisions

•        Shadow functions in markets and business units

•        New conflicts around allocations, chargebacks, and decision rights

7.       Redesigning business units in isolation •        Duplication and inconsistencies in programs, processes, metrics or reporting

•        Non-value-added time and resources spent on overlapping work at global, regional, and local levels

•        Missed connections, leverage, and learning across business units or markets

8.       Unclear design terminology For example: Product, Customer, Product or Project Management, COE, Shared Service, Analytics

•        Ambiguity hinders efficiency of the design process and creates friction

•        Inability to integrate data, compare across units

•        Duplication and/or gaps in roles  and work across units, functions

9.       Moving too fast •        Failure to engage key stakeholders and consider different perspectives

•        May side-step proper control and regulatory processes; vetoes pop up at the end of the design process

10.    Moving too slow •        Case for change is forgotten, becomes lost, or changes

•        Change fatigue, and momentum is lost

•        Loss of competitive advantage and customers/clients



The realities of business make some of these pitfalls unavoidable. Understanding the consequences and enabling informed trade-off decisions when they do arise is the work of the business leader and organization designer.


Rollin Burhans

Senior Consultant