Islands in Your Company: How to Identify Them
At Celaque, we are organized by function. We have six different departments that are structured according to the work that needs to be executed. As we strengthen the organization, we continue to place each role and responsibility within the different departments. We make sure that every operation within the company is within the purview of one of the departments and is part of that group’s systems and processes. Because each department has its own processes and uses the same company-wide systems, it makes adding one more item more efficient.
As we move forward, I have been finding islands of roles/responsibilities that have been operating independently of the departments. Inevitably, in these islands parallel processes have also been developed that don’t fall within each of the department’s main processes. The extra procedures entail an additional effort because they fall outside of the system.
These islands can crop up as a company is growing. Before everything is organized as part of the overall company, work simply needs to get done, and redundant ways of doing the same thing show up in different parts of the company. As a growing company implements an organizational structure, it is important to place everything within the overall scheme and not leave anything out. When the company has found an organizational structure that works well, it’s time to hunt for the remaining islands.
Finding Independent Islands
There are often more displaced tasks than you would originally imagine, and they are surprisingly resilient. These are the tasks that could be handled by more than one team, for instance, and still work. Organically, these tasks have come to be handled outside the macro processes of the company and are therefore independent of the processes and systems that have been implemented company-wide.
For example, yesterday I discovered that once one of our tenants vacates a unit, it is repaired and cleaned for the new tenant under the supervision of the Properties team (our property management unit). This arrangement makes sense because Properties is responsible for the units, but Properties those not have an engineer on the team. The process is more efficiently handled by Projects, which is our construction and engineering department, since they control everything we build and are experts in getting projects off the ground.
Because remodels weren’t being handled by Projects, a parallel, Excel-based system (read more here about Excel: The End of Excel and How to Substitute It (For the Most Part)) had been developed to manage purchase orders and construction budgets. It was inefficient because other people needed to step in to make sure the engineering process was being properly executed, and it was, therefore, causing a loss to the team’s energy and time at a company-wide level.
The way it should have been structured is different. Whenever a tenant leaves one of our units, Properties should alert Projects. Projects then draws up and approves a budget. Then the purchase orders for the materials that need to be acquired are entered into our system, NetSuite, where the orders are entered and approved. When the material is received, it is managed within our inventory management processes. Finally, Projects executes and supervises the project to ensure the units are returned to a pristine condition.
We hadn’t realized that we were managing an inefficient process and that we were exposing ourselves to additional errors and expenses because we weren’t using the existing company infrastructure. Sometimes these oversights are not obvious with the naked eye. Finding these islands requires constant critical thinking and questioning of the current structure, and only then can ineffective parallel processes be found and removed.
A company’s organizational structure is never finished. There is always change that must be considered, and the structure itself can always be improved. As the islands are moved from being handled independently to the larger company structure, which includes systems and processes that are regularly reviewed and updated, the company will be strengthened. Removing those islands will increase the overall company’s efficiency and will reduce the likelihood of errors.