Few business tools are as overlooked and underappreciated as the organizational (“org”) chart. Likely, you have diagramed one for your company.
We tend to pull them out at specific moments such as when we need to meet with a third party like a vendor, customer, lender, or new hire. If out of date, which they often are, we quickly update them. Then, after the meeting, the chart gets put away, forgotten until the need arises to pull it out again.
Most business owners stop there, having no further use for this unexciting little instrument. But hidden within the org chart is the potential to drive significant value in your company between now and exit. Here’s how.
The Future Org Chart Exercise
Convene your leadership team for an exercise called “The Future Org Chart.” Pick a future period of time such as three to five years out, and lead the team through the process of diagramming what the company org chart must look like on that date in order to support the expected growth between now and then.
Choose a date that matches up with the growth plans and timetable defined in your company’s long-term strategic growth plan. (If your company lacks a written growth plan, watch this webinar to learn why this is an expensive mistake.)
Start with a completely blank sheet, and then discuss and fill in the organizational structure needed to realize and support this growth. Assign job titles (those are the boxes) and define reporting roles and relationships (those are the connecting lines), but do not assign current employees to the future org chart — not yet.
You and your team will be tempted to start filling peoples’ names in the boxes, but it is important that you do not do this until you have a completed org chart that the entire team agrees with and supports. At this point, you now have a clear and written vision for the team that is required to grow and lead your company over the next three to five years.
Meeting With Your Leaders
There’s more to be gained. With the Future Org Chart template built, it is time to put names in the boxes. We recommend you meet individually and confidentially with your leaders to get their input because some of these conversations involve people’s careers:
- Some of your employees may have ambitions about climbing the organizational ladder and progressing into one of the higher positions forecasted in the Future Org Chart.
- Some employees may aspire to occupy a position currently occupied by another person.
- The Future Org Chart may call for adding new management layers into the company, and some employees may worry about being eclipsed or losing status if the level they currently occupy is subsidiary to a new level above it.
Issues or opportunities uncovered by these one-on-one conversations have the potential to be good for both the team and the company. Leaders aspiring to do more and earn promotions can be trained and coached on what is necessary to achieve their goals, and any fears about growth can be addressed. By necessitating these conversations, the Future Org Chart helps you develop and grow your current team.
After receiving input from your team members, now it’s time to finally put current employees’ names in the appropriate boxes within the Future Org Chart. Once done, you may see the following:
- Some newly created positions have empty boxes. This indicates that to create the team of the future, your company will need to identify and hire a person qualified to fill that need.
- Some existing positions that are currently occupied become empty between now and the Future Org Chart’s effective date. This reveals some succession planning that must take place, typically because the employee currently occupying that position is retiring sometime within the next few years.
- Some names are listed in multiple boxes. This indicates that you have some people doing too many things. You may need to find ways to add new talent into the picture to reduce the organizational dependency on any one person who is over-allocated. The most important person to be wary of here is yourself — as the business’s owner, you cannot remain directly involved in too many functions. If the company is overly dependent on you it will be difficult if not impossible to achieve a successful exit.
- Some names do not belong in any box. This might happen for a couple of reasons. Perhaps the employee is not in alignment with the rest of the organization, and this exercise is shining a light on that challenging reality. Alternatively, perhaps the direction and pace of the company’s growth will eventually eliminate the need for a person’s role and skills. In either situation, it is best to recognize these inconsistencies and develop a response rather than miss or overlook the issue.
With this exercise complete, you now have a written picture of what the company’s team needs to look like in the future, as well as specific insights on what work needs to be done to make that future happen. The Future Org Chart exercise provides you with a road map for the company’s coaching, training, hiring, succession, and team development needs in order to realize the desired growth over the next several years. From there, you and your team can develop the plans and incremental steps required to migrate from the current organization to this organization of the future.
Maximizing Company Value
Having a solid plan for growth and the right team to achieve that plan would be reason enough to complete a Future Org chart, yet there is one final benefit for you to reap from this exercise. Building a competent team for the future that can deliver on this growth drives value in your company, which in turn supports achieving your exit goals: getting maximum value for the company, building a sustainable organization, and leaving on your own terms.
All of this from the simple, little, often-overlooked org chart.
Review our checklist, 25 Business Value Drivers, to identify steps that may enhance your business value.