The Maze of our Lives, by Doug Dickerson

An empowered organization is one in which individuals have the knowledge, skill, desire, and opportunity to personally succeed in a way that leads to collective organizational success.
– Stephen Covey

In his book, Harvest of Humanity, John Seamands tells a story of a German soldier who was wounded and ordered to go to a military hospital for treatment. When he arrived at the large and imposing building, he saw two doors, one marked, ‘For the slightly wounded,’ and the other, ‘For the seriously wounded.’
He entered through the first door and found himself going down a long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, ‘For officers’, and the other, ‘For non-officers.’ He entered through the latter and found himself going down another long hall. At the end of it were two more doors, one marked, ‘For party members’ and the other, ‘For non-party members.’ He took the second door, and when he opened it he found himself out on the street.
When the officer returned home, his mother asked him, “How did you get along at the hospital?” “Well, Mother,” he replied, “to tell the truth, the people there didn’t do anything for me, but you ought to see the tremendous organization they have!”
For a leader, organizational structure is of no value to you unless it functions as it should. The soldier observed great organizational structure that did not meet his needs. He was no better off after exiting the doors of the hospital than he was when he walked through them.
Now, think about the functionality of your organizational structure. Does it improve and add value to the quality of work your team delivers? Does the structure create value for your clients? Here are three specific indicators to consider as you evaluate the functionality of your organizational structure.
Is your organizational structure efficient? Face it, fancy flow charts and diagrams may look impressive, but does it work? Peter Drucker said, “There is nothing so useless as doing efficiently that which should not be done at all.” How many useless hours are wasted in your organization simply because of an inefficient organizational structure?
The question is not whether organizational structure is necessary but how much. As a rule, clearly defined boundaries and structure must exist, but should do so in an environment where your people have room to breathe and get the job done. If your organizational structure does not serve the needs of your team you can be sure it is not serving the needs of your clients.
Does your organizational structure facilitate service? Here is the bottom line; organizational structure is a means-to-an-end. And unfortunately, your current structure may be the very thing preventing your organization from reaching its full potential. An honest appraisal of your team would go a long way in determining where you are and what works.
Regardless of the nature of your business or organization, the service that you render is tied directly to your ability to produce. How well are you serving the needs of your customers? What restrictions are holding you back? Remember, the service you deny your client is a service rendered to your competitor.

Does your organizational structure create opportunity? As you develop an organizational model that is efficient it will create opportunities for you that did not exist prior. When your organizational structure is worker-friendly and service-oriented, you will discover that it is also growth-oriented.

Thomas Edison said, “Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work.” It takes courage to simplify your organizational structure so that work can take place. And the experience of your customers should not be a maze of unmet expectations that puts them back out on the street.

Your opportunity for tomorrow begins with the right organization today. Are you building a maze to nowhere or a pathway to potential?

© 2011 Doug Dickerson