An age-old question

“Should one design their organization and then look for the right people to fill specific roles on the chart, or should the organization be designed around the people the firm already has on board?”

An age-old question that has plagued top managers in AEC firms for as long as I can remember is this: Should one design their organization and then look for the right people to fill specific roles on the chart, or should the organization be designed around the people the firm already has on board?

There are pros and cons for each approach. Logically, the former makes sense. You need certain jobs filled and particular skill sets to fill them. Don’t settle. Look for the best person for the job, whether that person is inside or outside the company. Be determined to get exactly what you want, and don’t give up until you succeed in doing so. Work through all your positions this way and you’ll eventually have the organization you want and need.

On the other hand, the latter approach makes sense, too. It’s an employee-driven job market. Good people, i.e., those with good attitudes, work ethic, and personalities that lend themselves to working as a part of a team, are very hard to find. And if you have people on board who have proved themselves in this way, you can’t cast them aside just because they don’t have something that one of your organizational “boxes” requires. It wouldn’t be smart. And maybe you can shift roles around so that 80 percent of something is filled by one person and 20 percent by another.

I can see how one could take either side on this issue. I have taken each side at different times over the years, although I will admit that the older I get the more I tend to want to design the organization’s roles around the people rather than vice-versa. Either way, however, you can’t ignore the facts of what you need versus what you have people-wise, and whether your firm is growing and profitable. Because if it isn’t doing both of those things, something is wrong with what you’re doing. You don’t have “grandma’s recipe” and need to do something different. Growth and profitability are the two tests of management decision making, the results of which cannot be ignored.

It’s been said that entrepreneurial companies must provide two income streams for their owners – what the owners get out of it every week in the form of salary, bonuses, and profit distributions, and the longer-term value owners can cash in on upon exit. If you don’t see both of these returns, you are a small business owner, not an entrepreneur.

So where do you stack up on this issue? Strict role definitions, with the best you can find filling those roles, or working around your people trying to keep all of them on-board, regardless of their backgrounds and skills? And are you happy with your numbers for growth and profitability? If not, maybe this is one area for you to do a little self-examination.

Mark Zweig is Zweig Group’s chairman and founder. Contact him at mzweig@zweiggroup.com.

Subscribe to The Zweig Letter for free.

Posted in Articles | December 31st, 2018 by