Recent discussions have led us to the question, how much data do you need to do Organisation Design? Everyone is talking about Big Data, but working on Organisation Design we rarely come across really large datasets. The datasets we see, on job titles, competencies, roles, line management relationships and so on tend to be messy and incomplete. They tend to change all the time, from many different angles. But they aren’t large – not by comparison with terabytes of data from email traffic or the 5 petabytes of data per year from the Large Synoptic Survey Telescope’s astronomical observations.
To check on this, we reviewed the larger datasets that we have used in organisation design projects, in each of the key organisation design phases: Macro, Micro and ‘Making it Real’ (or Implementation).
What we found was interesting. The most data-intense stages are later on – in Micro design (Phase 2) or Implementation (Phase 3). The Phase 1 ‘Macro’ design stage – which is often the focus of Organisation Design theory – generally uses smaller datasets. The list below is just a sample of the 30-40 stages of Organisation Design that we would usually work on, but it is an interesting indication.
It is only for the very largest organisations and for very detailed feedback or planning that dataset sizes go over a million data points. The larger datasets occur when the organisation is making detailed assignments of accountabilities, objectives, decisions and competencies down to individual employees (an area of organisation design which is often neglected).
It’s useful to understand the relatively small size of datasets in Organisation Design so that we can understand where the real challenges are. There has been so much excitement about Big Data that people can forget whether they are genuinely relevant to Org Design. Organisational systems, with their unstructured, incomplete data in ragged hierarchies and loosely coupled datasets pose some unique challenges – from loading, cleansing, to maintenance, analysis and design.
Comments welcome. When you’re doing organisation design, do you use large datasets? What are the main data challenges – is it just getting hold of the data, is it cleansing or is it analytics? Are there stages that we haven’t listed here that require much, much more data?
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