Organisational structure and design instruction

Instruction statement

These instructions outline organisational structure and design principles to help managers redesign the organisational structure as part of a change project.

These instructions are for all staff.



Instruction steps and actions

Review of the organisational structure and design

Any review of the organisational structure must be based on a clear understanding of the purpose and direction of the work area: how each position contributes to the area’s purpose; and the relationships between positions. Positions then need to be designed to provide clear accountabilities, relationships between positions and reporting lines.

The organisational structure and position descriptions need to be clearly documented. Where a review results in new positions, or positions which will undergo significant change, these should be classified through the appropriate job evaluation process.

Reviews may be instigated whenever there is a sense that change is required, for example:

  • changed business directions
  • the introduction of new technology
  • competition in the market
  • changes in government policy/funding
  • responding to client/market needs
  • need to improve service delivery
  • need to review the organisation’s work practices

Reviews can vary in scope and complexity but will invariably have some impact on staff.

What is organisational change?

Organisational change is often implemented following an organisational review which seeks to determine how the business needs to improve.

Depending on what aspect of the business is being improved, organisational change is an opportunity to redesign jobs, develop structures that improve career opportunities, and develop improved communication and reporting lines.

Organisational change will have implications for staff. This may include changes in the number of staff, changes in the skills and attributes required to undertake the work and changes in the manner in which the work is performed. Staff will have varying responses to organisational change. They should be supported and given the opportunity to be involved, including the opportunity to give their views.

Organisational structure and design principles

1. Structure and design support the unit’s strategy and purpose

  • Does the organisation’s structure and design support the unit’s strategy and purpose?
  • Is the structure and design a vehicle to support or change culture?
  • Does the structure support flexibility so that resources can be deployed according to shifting priorities?
  • Is the structure financially sustainable?

2. Client service needs and expectations are met

  • Will the organisational structure help you efficiently deliver quality products and services to clients?
  • Does the structure support quality client service that caters for different client needs?
  • Can clients and others navigate the structure to get to what they need easily?

3. Work flows are simple and standardised

  • Does work flow easily between each step in a given process? Is the overall process clear?
  • Can each person in a given process navigate the work flow?

4. Service areas cooperate

  • Does the organisation structure facilitate cooperation with other areas of the University?
  • Are dependencies and interdependencies clear and manageable?

5. Knowledge management and communication are effective

  • Does the organisational structure support information sharing and feedback loops so that services improve, processes become more efficient and successes are celebrated?
  • Does the structure enable clear and well-informed decision making and communication?

6. Structure incorporates opportunities for career progression

  • Does the structure support career progression for staff? Strong organisational structure should enable staff to develop their capabilities and move from position to position. Clear relationships between positions means that staff can broaden their capabilities and experience, act in vacant higher positions, or take on partial higher duties.
  • Does the structure set clear relationships between positions, with no anomalies, such as staff supervising others at the same level?

7. Staff composition is manageable

  • Are workgroups of a size and composition that allows supervisors to provide meaningful support and feedback to support staff performance? Workgroups can consist of 6 to12 direct reports depending upon the nature of the work, the people in the roles, and the established processes.

8. Structures comply with governance and legislative responsibilities

  • Does the structure enable compliance with governance and legislative requirements (industrial awards and agreements, health and safety legislation, relevant University policies), including reporting requirements?
  • Does the structure and design suit the style of management and governance?
  • Are accountabilities clear? Are reporting lines clear? Do staff have multiple reporting lines? If so, are these clear and manageable?
  • Does each level of supervision add value, or are there too many layers?

9. Position design is satisfying and motivating

  • Do structures encourage satisfying and motivating position design with:
    • a variety of tasks
    • clear responsibility for the job and understanding of how it fits with other positions and the work of the unit
    • autonomy; that is, scope for decision making, regulating, controlling and improving own work
    • whole tasks (where possible), ensuring people see the end results of their work
    • meaningful feedback from the staff member’s supervisor and colleagues
    • participation in decisions
    • Recognition and support?

10. Position titles are simple and clear

  • Are position titles clear (simple, jargon-free, descriptive, non-discriminatory) so that people can easily identify who to contact about what?
  • Are position titles in line with RMIT’s Position title instruction?

11. Regular reviews are conducted

  • Are structures and design reviewed regularly against these principles?
  • How will the structure and design be reviewed? How will supervisors and incumbents be involved in reviewing structure and design?

Reviews can be conducted in line with annual business and workforce planning processes or in response to key events (such as changes in client needs, funding, technology, processes, priorities).

Reviews can be informed by consultation with staff and management, internal/external clients, and other stakeholders; benchmarking against structures of comparable functions in other organisations; and the manager’s assessment of the work unit’s performance.

Supervisors and incumbents should be invited to provide input into the design of organisation structure and/or positions prior to changes being made.

Redesign of the organisational structure

The rationale and objective of the organisational review will determine which principles of organisational structure are most critical to success.

Therefore some principles need to be prioritised above others (step 5, below). They can then be applied as criteria when considering optional structures.

Certain criteria will need to be balanced against each other – for example, the size of work groups interacts with the number of layers in the structure. This in turn interacts with how simple the processes can be. For example, low numbers of direct reports may mean more layers in the hierarchy; this can result in more bureaucratic processes because the layers are not always adding value to the work.

Step 1: Strategy

What are the key strategic objectives and implicit drivers for change?

Step 2: Current situation

What are the issues with the current structure and practices?

Step 3: Future environment

Who are your stakeholders and clients? What are their potential future business objectives, future trends, and future vision?

Step 4: Issues and evaluation

What key issues have emerged from the current situation? What issues are likely to emerge in the future environment?

Step 5: Evaluation criteria

Which Organisation Structure and Design Principles (above) are the key criteria for the new structure?

Step 6: Develop and evaluate options

Develop models of possible structures. How do they address the evaluation criteria you identified in step 5? Seek feedback from stakeholders, clients and current incumbents against your key evaluation criteria.

Step 7: Agree on preferred structure

Aim to get agreement on the preferred structure from key stakeholders.

Conducting the review: the importance of communication

Appropriate consultation and communication with affected staff is important to the success of an organisational review and subsequent changes. RMIT has made a commitment to inform staff of any intention to conduct an organisational review. This commitment is reflected in relevant workplace agreements which require us to undertake certain consultation processes. For further advice about consultation requirements, contact Human Resources.

When initiating a review, meet with potentially affected staff to communicate:

  • the reasons for the review
  • the objectives of the review
  • the expected outcomes, if any
  • who will conduct the review
  • the process to be followed, including consultation
  • an indication of the timelines and the approval process

An outline of the review may also be presented in writing.

Invite staff to raise issues and seek clarification on matters. Discuss with staff how communication about the review will be managed: how they can keep informed and how they can be involved. Staff can give important insights into the way work can be organised and can identify significant improvements. Decisions will be better informed and staff will feel more involved and responsible for the outcomes.

It may be appropriate to have a staff representative on the review team or to form a staff working party.

Support and resources

Notify Human Resources if you are considering an organisational review – before taking formal action. Human Resources will help you consider all the relevant issues. They will also coordinate communications with relevant staff and any chosen staff representatives.

Human Resources can also provide the following support services:

  • Advice regarding requirements of relevant enterprise agreements and policies
  • Assistance in developing a methodology to conduct the review
  • Assistance in designing a communication and consultation process
  • Organisational structure and design
  • Job redesign
  • Work flow analysis/skills analysis
  • Identifying and managing training and development requirements
  • Recruitment
  • Redeployment
  • Access to counseling
  • Developing human resources impact statements and implementation plans.
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