Part of my job is spent on the design and architecture of our patented knowledge network software apps. I was just reading an industry rag on software, when I came across this little gem on the Seven Deadly Sins of Software Design. It occurred to me that as managers, we have exactly the same challenges in organizational design with ‘portfolios’ of teams and business processes that span internal and external organizations, as we do with the architecture of the software that designed to help enable it all.

So here are the Seven Deadly Sins for Organizational Design:

Rigidity. Making it hard to change. Changes often ripple through organizations, organizations need a certain amount of ‘future-proofing’ in their design.
Fragility. Making it easy to break. This one is especially relevant for business process design and organizational design tied to it.
Immobility. Making it hard to reuse. I once worked in a Fortune 10 organization where you were reorganized at least once a year, I think we must have spent more on business cards and consulting wiring diagrams than any other company in the city. Employees need a sense of continuity, if you don’t make org design reusable, you will at best cause confusion and at worse sheer inefficiency.
Viscosity. Making it hard to do the right thing. There are natural information flows in an organization. If you overengineer a design or make it too rigid, people will be tempted to find their own ‘workarounds’ and ways of doing things, which means your business processes will suffer.
Needless Complexity. Over-Design. When you over-do it – e.g. the “Swiss-Army knife” antipattern. While you should definitely scenario test your design, designing to the ‘nth’ degree, will actually cause rigidity.
Needless Repetition. Who hasn’t worked in an organization where repetition was rife?
“Not doing any”. Design, that is. Or equally deadly, not informing all people of all the changes.

Have I missed some deadly sins? What are your experiences?

(Republished from Monday May 22 2006)