Businesses are constantly under pressure to improve performance, but as macroeconomic conditions have declined in recent years this has become imperative in the chemical industry.
This is especially true for organizations with operations in Europe. They have felt this most acutely as oil and gas prices have risen in comparison to US and the Middle East, and EU regulations have impacted the supply and use of raw materials.
With competition from Asia also increasing, chemical companies are now having to achieve more with less. To give themselves the best chance of being successful, many of these companies are now adapting their organizational set-ups. Their aim is to enable greater collaboration, efficiency, and agility.
To make best use of their resources, companies know that they need to build upon their existing solutions and enable continuous improvement by sharing know-how across their organizations.
Given the tendency for silos to develop within large global companies, however, this does not always happen. Too often business units pursue their own individual agendas, which can stifle information sharing.
For example, a business unit may only consult its engineering team during the latter stages of a project, when the delivery timeframe is short – rather than requesting engineering expertise in the early stages. At this point any questions or suggestions from the engineers are likely to create tensions and resentment on both sides. Such experiences can lower the propensity for cooperation on future projects – and cause divisions to deepen.
It's also common to see R&D functions emerging in different regions too, with separate solutions being developed for similar problems. It’s crucial that companies avoid these situations and limit any duplication of effort.
To prevent teams from reinventing the wheel and creating solutions that already exist, organizations need to develop frameworks that incentivize an exchange of information and collaboration.
This will require businesses to adapt their organizational set-up in a way that builds in cooperation between teams. A popular approach when creating these new organizational structures is to apply methodology based on the Schumacher Model.
This approach helps to provide clarity over the business goal, and who will be responsible for making this happen. It will also show how people will work together and what steps need to be taken to achieve that requirement.
The starting point is to clearly identify the business requirement in terms of overall purpose. In the case of a global engineering function, for example, this might be to create better solutions through increased cooperation, or to increase implementation speed and reliability, or simply to ensure that skill sets are continuously improving within the business.
With a clear understanding of the business requirement, the next step is to create the ‘design principles’ which will allow you to reach your goal. In relation to the requirements mentioned above this might be to establish a community for the dissemination of best practice in regard to specific technologies, or to create a dedicated centre of excellence for engineering. Equally it could involve developing the role of an external business partner within the engineering function.
This exercise will provide an overview of a new organizational structure in terms of the business functions. The third step of the model involves capturing this structure in an organigram, outlining the key responsibilities of each function and identifying the stakeholders that should be involved – those who possess relevant knowledge or the appropriate business perspective.
From here Step 4 will take you deeper into the detail of the structure, with the creation of a RACI (Responsible, Accountable, Consult, Inform) matrix. Here you identify who is responsible and accountable for key business processes, and who should be consulted or informed along the way.
Step 5 is to commit this to a personnel organigram, which will make it possible to see if any skills gaps need to be filled and what resources are necessary to make the project happen. It also allows you to look at how these teams will work together in practice. Steps 6 and 7 involve creating a structure for managing the co-ordination and co-operation of your new teams and ensuring that you have a plan in place for performance management.
Whenever a business adapts its organizational setup in this way, it is vital that the business follows through to Step 8 to ensure the new structure takes root and collaboration is embedded.
As a minimum, this will require a kick-off event to explain everyone’s roles and responsibilities. But that still is just a job half done. The business will then need to follow this up with further support and coaching to ensure success.
Only by doing this can the business be sure that information is being exchanged by the right people at the right times and the company is taking full advantage of its existing knowledge base and solutions. When businesses get this right, however, they will make sure continuous improvement is happening, and the capacity of the workforce is increasing.
Take a look at how we helped some clients to establish to adapt their organizational setups