More Than an Organizational Synchronism

Organizational Synchronism (2007) is a new management concept developed by professors Paulo Rocha and Alan Albuquerque, of Fundação Dom Cabral, the objective of which being to organize the activities of a company through the alignment of three key-factors for its operations: the company’s strategies, its processes and its collaborators. The key piece of this methodology is the definition and improvement of the company’s critical processes, that is, those which most leverage the company’s strategies. Robert Kaplan and David Norton, in their book “Alinhamento” (2009), explain the importance of getting all the sectors of the organization observing everything that was planned as a strategy, and using the tool they created – the Balanced Scorecard – as an instrument to correct any organizational alignment gaps existing in many companies today. The common point between the proposals of these two books is the performance indicators that can be found both in the processes and in the strategic objectives of the organization, acting as a bridge to interconnect the company’s strategies and its critical processes: if achieving a strategic goal is controlled by a given indicator, one is to find out in which process such indicator appears so as to find the critical process to be improved. Thus, the strategies will be synchronized with the company’s processes. But, how can the processes be aligned with the people?

Both works suggest that people be aligned with the processes through projects for process improvement or action plans that refine the strategies down to the company’s shop floor. However, many of the employees in an organization spend years working without taking part in a project: it is those who work on operational activities, the day-to-day of the company. So, how can one align these people with the corporate processes? They only know their part in one or two of the company’s operational processes. The answer to this end phase of synchronism perhaps lies in the company’s human resources area; specifically, in its organizational development process, in one of its sub-processes: Planning and change in the company’s organizational structure. When a strategy unfolds into strategic objectives for the areas in the company and such goals require modifications in some critical processes, they should also require changes in the company’s organizational flowchart so that the execution of the new activities or action plans can be made easier through an organizational structure that is closer to the reality of its (main or support) critical processes, which ultimately shape the company’s reality. In contrast, what is seen today is a change in the company’s formal organization due to casuistic reasons, such as accommodation of positions of trust or the need to allocate an executive so as not to lose him/her to the market. This doubtful has increasingly moved away the company’s organizational structure from its processes and strategies.

While intending to supplement the efforts of Organizational Synchronism with those of its North-American counterpart, Alignment through BSC, some recommendations can be made in an attempt to align people to the organization’s processes and, thus, to its strategies by using the adjustment of the organizational structure as part of the company’s planning process:

1. Humberto Martins (2011), in his article “Uma Metodologia de Modelagem da Estrutura Organizacional”, recommends that the organizational structure of the company be treated as five logical structure blocks, thus making it easier to redesign one or more blocks without needing to redesign the other blocks. These are: Top Management, the top executive body controlling the organization; Operational Center, the space where the work processes for the company’s main activities operate to produce the outcomes defined by the strategy; Administrative Support, where the processes of input management (human resources, finance, logistics and material) are located; Technical-Corporate Support, where the processes for defining the technical requirements, product development, corporate planning and institutional development are included; and Intermediate Line, coordination structure that must provide for horizontal integration (between main and support activities) and vertical integration (between the top management and the operational center).

2. Henry Mintzberg (1979), in his article “The Structuring of Organizations: A Synthesis of the Research”, suggests that coordinating these five parts can be in three ways, namely: through negotiation amongst the blocks, through hierarchical supervision or through process standardization, taking into account that the best organizational structure is the one which enables, at the lowest cost possible, the running of the operational center, the structure’s key block, from a certain strategy.

3. The best and most modern types of structure are network structures. According to Mintzberg and Quinn (2006), a complex organization is usually made up by various units of different purposes. To better organize this type of company, they suggest a network structure which is not a single form of organization, but encompasses a complex variety of fundamentally different ways to organize itself: in an infinitely flat way like a project; in an inverted way like in a hospital network; like a cobweb by decentralizing the intellect and the operations; in an agglomerated way by centralizing the intellect, but decentralizing the operations; in a sunray arrangement way by creating permanent subunits; or in neural networks by copying the way the human brain works and decentralizing power and decisions.

4. New ways of representing an organizational structure should be pursued so as to connect it to the processes and strategies of the company. A simple organizational flowchart only shows the company’s formal power structure (vertically) and the company’s structure of accountabilities by positions (horizontally). Mintzberg and Heyden (1999) present a new way to design and see organizations through what they called ‘organigraph’, whereby there are no strict rules, like with organization flowcharts. An organigraph shows more relationships and processes than names and titles. It does not abolish the organization flowcharts and their components, like boxes to indicate power and arrows for the relationship amongst boxes, but it introduces new components that seek to reflect the various ways how people organize themselves at work. These new components are called central point, which acts as a coordination center; it is any physical or conceptual point where people, things and information move to; and network, which refers to connections without a center allowing for open communication and continuous movement of people and ideas. An Organigraph allows for visualizing the competences and connecting them to the organization’s processes, something the traditional organization flowchart does not provide for.

References:

ALBUQUERQUE, Alan e ROCHA, Paulo. Sincronismo Organizacional Como Alinhar a Estratégia, os Processos e as Pessoas. São Paulo: Editora Saraiva, 2007.

KAPLAN, Robert S. e NORTON, David P. Alinhamento Utilizando o Balanced Scorecard para Criar Sinergias Corporativas. Trad. Afonso Celso da Cunha Serra. Rio de Janeiro: Editora Campus, 2009.

MINTZBERG, Henry. The Structuring of Organizations: A Synthesis of the Research (1979). In: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Academy for Entrepreneurial Leadership Historical Research Reference in Entrepreneurship. Disponível em SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1496182. Consultation on 10/09/2011

MINTZBERG, Henry e HEYDEN, L. V. der. Organigraphs: Drawing how companies really work. Harvard Business Review, p. 87-94, sept./oct. 1999.

MINTZBERG, Henry; QUINN, James Brian; LAMPEL, Josef; GHOSHAL, Sumantra. O Processo da Estratégia. 4ª ed. Porto Alegre: Bookman, 2006.

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