What is Organization Design?

I recently attended a presentation by a speaker from a famous business research organization on the effectiveness and best practices in organization design. Twenty minutes into the presentation, the speaker still had not defined the term but had given many examples that made the term vague and therefore the results of the study he was summarizing uninterpretable—at least to me. Organization design, he said, often makes things worse. Really?

That sounds bad. But what’s organization design? His answer clarified nothing. As a service to anyone who might be interested, here is the definition Tom Kaney, Shannon Breuer, and I use in our book, Leading Strategy Execution:

Organization design art and science of fitting the institutional components of the firm—its structure, business processes, reward, and people practices—to the strategy.

As a tangible expression of the way we use the term organization design, we employ Jay R. Galbraith’s Star Model. Successful strategy execution requires conforming an organization to the strategy along these five dimensions (each point of the Star). As strategies change, each of these elements of the organization need to be reexamined and often “redesigned.”


In our book, Leading Strategy Execution, we offer an organizational assessment device to tell if your organization is aligned with its strategy, i.e., needs redesign. We have a full set of norms from our various projects. And guess what: through the use of this survey, executive teams almost also report the need for organizational redesign. HR leaders (and others) seeking to find ways to be more relevant to line executives could use this device to stimulate very meaningful executive-level conversations.



"In this book, you will find a summary and application of the work of Jay Galbraith, myself, and others in the field of organiza­tion design. You will also find the integration of thought leaders in the fields of leadership, change, and human resources brought together into a clear and actionable framework. For example, the authors take the concept of the Balanced Scorecard—a powerful concept that many leadership teams struggle to implement success­fully—and turn it into an easy to use strategy map that makes ab­solutely clear the relationship between capabilities and results.

"These authors’ many years working as organizational consul­tants (combined with Richard McKnight’s photographer’s eye for the telling detail) enable many insights into the workings of organi­zational life. Leading Strategy Execution is infused with a humanity not often found in business writing.

"This wise, easy-to-read, and very helpful book will provide con­crete guidance in getting the strategic results you seek."