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KonMari Method applied to Organisational Design

Tidy Clothes Hangers

Can we apply the KonMari to Organisational Design?

The KonMari method describes how to tidy your house and how to keep it tidy. It is a set of rules that you can absorb in order to keep a less cluttered house. Having read through the concepts and the rules, I noticed some similarities to the domain of Organisational Design. So let’s work through some of the main rules.

1. Tidy all at once

The premise of this is the concept that tidying an untidy house a bit at a time doesn’t work. Now before I hear you say Continuous Improvement, we have to remember that at first with KonMari, the house is already untidy. And so it is with our organisation. We’re performing Organisational Design because the  organisation is an unfit state; it’s untidy.

So let’s allocate enough time, effort and people to redesign the organisation to get it into a fit shape. We need to accept the fact that it will take time and can’t be done piecemeal.

2. Visualize your destination.

This is the vision that sets the direction for your organisational design. Think of the vision that fits with MSP (Managing Successful Programmes) or the visions provided by your CEO or MD.

Define what you want your organisation to look like in the future, what it does, how it does it. That’s the direction you want to travel in and then that can act as constraints and drivers later on.

Create the design principles in order to identify what criteria you’re going to use to make decision about the future.

3. Identify why you want to live the way you envision

I think this is potentially the wrong way around. In my eyes, the ‘why’ should come before the ‘what’ of the vision in Step 2.

Using KonMari, you’d go through the exercise asking yourself why you need the items that are in your vision. This is a questioning of self, to understand how important an item is for you.

For us, this is the questioning we should ask about the vision. It’s time to reflect on the vision and evaluate it from a different perspective. As opposed to the vision that you’ve developed over time, question “if we achieve this vision, will it be good enough?”, “will it do what we set out to do?”, “are we aiming far enough?”

It’s also the questioning we should be asking ourselves when looking at the design principles. Are they fit for purpose? Are they good enough?

4. Determine if each item “sparks joy”

When you consider the items to keep or reject, KonMari suggests an emotional angle over whether it sparks joy. This enables you to reduce the items beyond just whether it’s functional or not, or whether you may use it in the future.

So we should look at each business capability in your organisation. Does its current implementation, e.g. which team makes it happen, work for you? Does it feel right? This isn’t about the logical response, but the emotional one.

5. Tidy by category, not location.

Remember this. It’s probably the most important one.

The KonMari suggestion is to bring all items of a certain category (e.g. sweaters) into a single place and work through them one-by-one. Rather than sorting through a chest of drawers, drawer-by-drawer.

Consider all the teams that deliver each Business Capability. Is that the way that you want to deliver that capability in future? How does it fit in with your vision? Is there a different way for you to provide that Business Capability, e.g. merging teams, outsourcing, joint venture, etc?

6. Tidy in the right order.

The KonMari method describes this order:

  1. Clothes
  2. Books
  3. Papers
  4. Komono (miscellaneous.)

But also to create subcategories within the categories.

It’s a more complex situation for organisational design. We could find equivalent capabilities for clothes, books, etc, but the reality is that each organisation is different. They may have similar capabilities, but it’s likely that any two organisations will have different implementations of each capability or have capabilities at different stages of maturity.

So we need to create a plan that makes sense for each organisation. Start with the fundamentals of what needs changing first in order to create space (or capacity) elsewhere. For instance, if an intake team within value chain can’t change it’s filtering for whether customers, prospects, etc are passed further down the chain. Then it probably makes sense to focus on the receiving teams first, to then free up people assist with the intake team. It’s similar to clearing out a large enough area to act as swing space, so you can then make bigger changes more efficiently with the space you’ve just cleared.

7. Discard before you place things back

Set honest expectations early. If jobs will be at risk, complete the consultation and follow-up actions before you move people into the new team structure. There is always pain, but better to start a new organisation design with team members who are committed rather than retaining those who know that they are leaving.

Reflection

I hadn’t intended this as a serious article, but I the more I wrote, the more I realised that there may be some useful perspectives to gain from the exercise.

Can we perform organisational design using just the KonMari method? From what I’ve found of the method so far, no we can’t.

Can we benefit from considering the KonMari method when performing organisational design? Yes, most likely we can.

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