HR Group, founded in Edmonton Alberta in 1993, is a partnership of highly experienced management consultants who specialize in organizational effectiveness and human resource management, and promote participative, lean, and cost-effective management practices. All partners are Certified Human Resource Practitioners with extensive senior level experience in both the private and public sectors.

Reviewing the Organization to Create a More Productive Workplace

Reprinted from “Productive Workplaces” (Winter, 2000), the HR Group newsletter 

Many view an Organizational Review or Audit as an excuse for the termination of specific employees,  especially senior managers. It is also frequently viewed as a cover for downsizing which has already been predetermined. This skepticism or cynicism is not without foundation as too many organizations operate in this manner. This is highly unfortunate as an Organizational Review can be an extremely useful tool in identifying and resolving problem areas, implementing change, generating employee participation and teamwork and creating a more productive workplace for all concerned. 

What we mean by an Organizational Review is not a financial audit or purely a top down review by senior managers of their respective areas from a cost benefit perspective. What we mean is a complete overall review of the organization that involves all staff at all levels and starts with a blank page with no preconceived ideas or solutions.  Only in this manner are all organizational issues identified and the ideas, expertise and creativity of all staff fully utilized. Only in this manner is there any staff buy in and ownership of the changes and the will to implement those changes.

We have all seen so many organizations try to improve productivity by implementing a new Quality Management program, or a Continuous Improvement program or Teamwork or whatever the buzzword of the day happens to be. These programs are usually implemented top down without the full involvement of all stakeholders and without the entire organizational picture being looked at. They invariably fail as a result. Change to the Healthcare system is an example of such a top down process without full involvement of stakeholders; with the result that the system still primarily operates with traditional, outdated business practices that make it hierarchical, bureaucratic, and slow to respond.

It has been shown time and time again that partially participative change does not work; it must be fully participative. All areas of the organization must be reviewed at the same time. One cannot, for example, create a productive workplace with self-motivated employees without discarding bureaucratic structures and rigid policies and controls that curtail any initiative. Excellent customer service cannot be provided by front line staff that are not allowed to make independent decisions because they constantly have to ask someone’s permission.


A full and useful Organizational Review looks at all areas such as:

  • Organizational structure
  • Roles and reporting relationships
  • Human Resource Management practices
  • Work methods, policies and procedures
  • Customer service, one-stop shopping etc.
  • Delegation of responsibility
  • Performance management and accountability
  • Overlap, duplication and redundancy
  • Staff development
  • Board/Council and Administration relationship

The review, in other words, looks at all possible means of improving service, quality and cost effectiveness. The review will normally bring to light many means of being more productive and cost effective without just cutting staff, decreasing salaries or increasing workloads past any rational point. If there are to be any staff changes or any “downsizing”, they are rationally explained and substantiated after such a comprehensive and logical analysis of the organization and its needs.

A full review with the participation of all stakeholders can provide the following benefits to the organization:

  • Responsibility delegated to the level at which the work is done. Most employees welcome such responsibility. It provides far more interesting work and far greater motivation.
  • Staff accountability. You cannot hold anyone accountable unless the responsibility is delegated to them.
  • A rational organizational structure where supervisory/management positions are actually justified and are not just there to “police” other staff.
  • Ongoing teamwork that flows from the participative process of the review.
  • Staff that are empowered and better able to resolve their own day-to-day workplace problems and adapt to ongoing future change.
  • An organizational focus on productivity and customer service.
  • Less bureaucracy and greater cost effectiveness.
  • Improved communications and decision making.

An organizational review is also an obvious and logical precursor to any strategic planning. Future plans are difficult to develop unless you know the current state of the organization and its needs and abilities.

One final note and caution. An organizational review must be fully participative to have any benefit. As Dana Corporation’s one-page corporate policy statement says: “The people who know best how the job should be done are the ones doing it.”