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From Rigid Hierarchy to Reconfigurable Organisations – Why and How?

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“Every company needs an organization which changes as quickly as its business changes.  If not, the company is falling behind.  In order to keep from falling behind, many companies are devoting enormous amounts of time and energy in “Change Management”.  This change task can be made less difficult and less time consuming if some of the change effort focused on designing organizations from the outset to be more easily changeable.  If change is constant, why not design our organizations to be constantly and quickly changeable?”[1]

Flexible Organisations

A “flexible” organisation is one that is able to adapt and respond relatively quickly to changes in its external environment in order to gain advantage and sustain its competitive position.  Rigid hierarchical organisations cannot do that.  In our article “From Job Descriptions to Role Profiles – Why and How, we discussed the shift away from traditional Job Descriptions, to more flexible Role Profiles.  As with Roles, we must start to think of organisations based on their core components rather than on a structure.

Without being too specific about this roadmap, because each organisation will find its own route, the journey will look something like this.

(c) TalentAlign 2020

Figure 1:  The roadmap from Organisation Strategy to Organisation Structure today.

We start with the Business Strategy for the organisation.  This gets translated into a Business Model (which may or may not include the first elements of a structure).  The business model describes the rationale of how the organisation creates, delivers, and captures value.  We then define the Capabilities needed to implement the model (there are probably multiple layers of Capabilities).

These capabilities—the collective skills, abilities, and expertise of an organization—are the outcome of investments in staffing, training, compensation, communication, and other human resources areas.  They represent the ways that people and resources are brought together to accomplish work. They form the identity and personality of the organization by defining what it is good at doing and, in the end, what it is.

These get organised into Roles and the Competencies defined for each of the Roles.

Once this is in place, the organisation can be structured and re-structured depending on the need and the demands of the marketplace without major disruption to the organisation as a whole.  This is creating a “Flexible”, or Reconfigurable, organisation.

Role Profiles

A Role Profile, in the context of this article, is not the same as a Job Description.  A Role Profile contains only the information relevant to the role.

For instance, it should be linked to a single, specific Deliverable or Outcome – not a combination of Deliverables or Outcomes.  So, from an IT perspective, a Developer is a Role, a Tester is a Role.  An employee may play both Roles, but they are separate Roles.

The information in the Role Profile is also limited to what is relevant to the Role.  So, the Deliverable, or Outcome is specified, the Purpose of the Role is specified, the Responsibilities are specified, the Competencies are specified.  Values specific to Roles, such as Scrum Roles, can also be specified.

All other information can be contained in other documents.  For instance, the Reports to and Supervisory Responsibilities can be contained in a basic organogram of the area – which can be changed without affecting the Role Profile.

The Work Environment, Expected Hours of Work, Travel, Work Environment and Physical Demands, can be contained in the standard Employee Guidelines – which can also be changed without affecting the Role Profile.

The idea is to keep the whole system as simple as possible.  And we do this by combining relevant detail into similar groupings and then integrating them as needed.

How Roles are Used in the Reconfigurable Organisation

Most articles on Job Descriptions say how they should be used for the different Talent Management practices in the organisation – from Recruitment to Reward.  Sadly however, this is seldom accomplished.  Mostly Job Descriptions are produced for Recruitment purposes, and then have little impact on other Talent Management practices.

Because Roles really are the new “building blocks” of flexible organisations, they play a vital role in the way people are managed in the New Way of Working.

(c) TalentAlign 2020

Figure 2:  Roles and the New Way of Working

  • Capability Alignment – First and foremost they align with the organisation’s Capabilities and therefor its Business Model and Strategy
  • Competencies – they define the competencies needed to be able to provide the Capabilities of the organisation
  • Recruitment Enablement – they enable an accurate, consistent and relevant recruitment process
  • Team Assignments – team members can be allocated to teams based on their competencies and ambitions as well as the needs of the team
  • Learning & Development – the competency information enables employees to select competencies to develop based on their career aspirations matched to the requirements of the organisation.
  • Performance Enablement – the deliverables, responsibilities and competencies all lend themselves to a better form of Performance Enablement rather than Performance Management
  • Growth & Career Enablement – in the New Way of Working it is expected that employees will seek out their desired career journey. However, the organisation has the responsibility of showing what the possibilities are.  Role Profiles provide this
  • Remuneration & Reward – Remuneration is changing in the New Way of Working. We have to find ways of remunerating people based on the competencies and contribution to the organisation, rather than some arbitrary scale.  Role Profiles linked to employees provide this necessary information.

Organisations based on a structure of jobs is changing.  There are newer and better ways of managing work-related information going forward.  Organisations can get better efficiency in all people management practices by moving in this new direction.


  • Has your company started to make the shift from rigid to reconfigurable?
  • Are you able to develop and redevelop the critical digital skills needed for your business?
  • Are you losing key staff because individuals don’t see a path for their career development in the traditional “jobs” structure?
  • Is your leadership equipped to manage a Reconfigurable organisation?
  • Do we have a digital skills architecture that addresses today’s skills demand?

[1] Jay Galbraith, “Designing a Reconfigurable Organization”

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At TalentAlign we help organisations with their shift from “traditional” to the New Way of Working. We have been working with traditional and agile organisation for a while, and we always keep up-to-date with new technology and methods. If we can help in any way, please contact us.  We would love to be part of your journey.