How we conducted an organizational design audit

How we conducted an organizational design audit

Jan 2020 - Apr 2020

Focus Groups

How we conducted an organizational design audit

Project results


Process for prioritization


Aligned creative teams

Project Objectives

The creative department of a global non-profit was producing a lot of work but there was also significant friction in the system. Often the system would break down, delaying projects and strategies. We wanted to understand why and how to fix it.

  • Map the organizational processes
  • Identify all stakeholders
  • Organize and prioritize key pain points
  • Develop executable solutions

Project Execution


The creative department asked me to help with how they handled projects. I counter-offered with the option of conducting a design audit on all their systems and processes.


There were pain points that had not yet been clearly identified and understood. If we immediately began working on a solution, we might be solving the wrong problem.


After a major restructure three years earlier, each department had developed its own systems and processes, but nobody looked at the API between those systems.

Business Value

Unnecessary delays or cancelation of projects cost organizations enormous amounts of time. Lack of clarity in the process reduces the effectiveness of communication and collaboration, resulting in lower quality end products.

Clear Expectations & Process >> Effective Communication & Collaboration >> Higher Quality Product

Transparent Iterative Rhythm >> Projects Stay on Track >> On-Time Delivery


I conducted research, helped the team map out the current processes and facilitated evaluation with the leadership team.


First I worked with the current production team to map out the current process. Next, I conducted internal and external interviews.

Creative Production Process Map
  • 40 Total Interviews
  • 20 Members of the creative department, including both leaders and individual contributors.
  • 20 Stakeholders of past projects from across the organization.


  • The process felt like a black box to the stakeholders
  • Internal leadership didn’t have a clear view of the status of projects.
  • Stakeholders wanted a person not a process to work with
  • When content or feedback was delayed the workflow broke down
  • No method for gaging the capacity or workload of people of teams
  • Work was usually done individually rather than collaboratively

Interview Quotes

“assignment seems based on who’s free over who’s the best fit”
“sometimes clients reach out to designers bypassing the request process”
“the form feels like an undefined black box, I don’t know what the process for the request is”

Affinity Diagram

We took all of our quotes and observations and organized them.

Affinity Diagram


Our solution was shaped but the following goals:
transparency, a people-oriented process, a more flexible resilient system, and alignment of workflow, teaming and roles.

How to organize our people

We organized our teams around geography, skillsets, outcomes and target audiences.

Field Resourcing Team
Experiences Team
Staff and Partnering Team
Ideation & Prototyping Team

How to organize our work

We organized the work into an agile rhythm to provide clarity of focus, a cadence of delivery and the ability to adjust. The work began to be owned by the teams rather than the individual creatives.

New Process Map

Key moments

relationship + conversation

Each division was assigned a liaison who was “their person” for creative needs. projects began with conversations between the stakeholder and the liaison.

actionable work

Projects are broken down into PBIs. When a PBI is sufficiently defined, has needed content available then it is ready for a team to select it.

3-week sprint

Team select prioritized actionable work. They focus on completing the work by end of the sprint.

delivery & feedback

A cadence of delivery creates momentum and a new culture of feedback invites growth.

Project Outcomes

The new system was rolled out on May 1, 2020.  Department-wide retros were held in August and December for feedback and adjustments.

Established a process for prioritization

I led a process of identifying all the stakeholders and working with executives to establish a process for prioritizing the work within that executive’s scope and across the organization at large. We began to even align with one another to identify priorities together for further focus and collaboration.

Began delivering work on time

By implementing Scrum, we established a cadence of delivering work. Only three cycles in, multiple teams expressed that they were finishing more work than they ever had before. And that was in the middle of a global pandemic!

By time-boxing the work a team selected, we not only increased focus but allowed for a healthier balance of workload with the team’s capacity. It allowed future work to not be on their plate or in their head until it was time to select it. This focus helped us to “stop starting and start finishing.”

Increased organizational transparency to current project status

I worked with others in the organization to migrate to a more established project management tool, Asana. We implemented the tool to provide transparency for stakeholders to see if their project was on track and even what we were working on in a given sprint. It also allowed leadership to have a high-level view of all the priorities and projects for the first time.

Lessons learned

The biggest lesson learned came in the area of socializing ideas. Scrum can sound intimidating or rigid when first explained. If you start with a document describing the meetings, roles, and artifacts, people can feel overwhelmed and push back. Beginning in conversation, not written documentation, around the values and what we want to see change builds empathy and alignment. The more technical concepts can be sprinkled into these conversations where they fit. When you move to the more formal stage of defining what you’re going to do, the ideas aren’t all new, and the details feel more like a gift than a burden.

While I’ve practiced this at various times, much of this lesson was learned by counterexample. It’s easy when you have a good solution that you and others are excited about moving too quickly. But this can be problematic, especially in a large and hierarchical organization. In this case, by going slower, you can go further.

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