3 critical pillars for a successful organizational restructure of your accounting firm

Performing an organizational restructure of your accounting practice is no easy feat. But that doesn’t mean it’s impossible. Especially with the right planning and strategy.

Someone is writing on yellow post-it notes and sticking them on a large piece of paper in 2 horizontal lines.

How you approach an organizational restructure determines the success of your outcome.

What is an organizational restructure?

An organizational restructure refers to shuffling who each of your team members report to. It might also include:

  • Relocation of resources

  • Introduction of new processes

  • Updated business model

The 3 pillars of a successful organizational restructure for an accounting firm

Change is hard at any level. Introducing even a minor organizational change requires a thoughtful approach. If a restructure to your organization is imminent, use these 3 pillars as your framework for a successful outcome:

  1. Understand your ‘why’

  2. Build a cohesive plan

  3. Communicate and support transparency

1. Understand your ‘why’

You first need to understand why an organizational restructure at your accounting firm is necessary. Ask yourself: What is the driver of this change, and why is it necessary? 

Before you embark on an organizational restructure, make sure you and your leaders are clear on why it needs to happen, the desired result, and how these changes will impact your staff and clients.

Ask these key questions to dig deeper into why an organizational restructure is necessary for your accounting firm:

What is driving the restructure and prompting the need for change?

  • Is it to solve a gap in resources?

  • To downsize your team?

  • As an outcome of implementing new technology or automation?

  • To respond to the competitive environment or pivot in a new direction?

What level of restructuring is needed?

  • Is the change isolated to one department or functional area?

  • What are the interdependencies? Will this change have a ripple effect on other departments or roles?

  • What will this change signal to the rest of your employees?

These questions will help determine whether you need small-scale changes or if it's time for a major organizational reconfiguration.

Pro tip: Conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) analysis to better-understand your proposed changes. Get your leadership team involved so you can also understand wider impacts on your business.

2. Build a cohesive plan

Once you are clear on the scale of the restructure, having a well-polished, end-to-end plan is critical to your success.

Ask these questions to consider the scope of the changes to build into your plan:

What type of organizational structure supports your business objectives?

For example, is it a hierarchical, matrix or flat structure? Most traditional accounting firms have a hierarchical structure. But it might be time to explore if this structure is best for your firm and your current business objectives. 

There are advantages and disadvantages to each, depending on the specific needs of your firm. Know what the functional areas, departments, roles, and lines of authority need to look like to design the right plan.

Who will drive and manage the plan?

Do you need a designated individual, or a team assigned to lead the transition? As part of change management, what will your role be vs. your leaders and/ or your people managers?

What are the phases of the restructure?

It may be a matter of weeks or it might take months to finalize the execution. Like any solid project plan, formalize the different phases with a timeline and milestone dates all the way through to post-launch.

Are you prepared for potential downsides to an organizational restructure?

Anticipate the obstacles. Are there unintended consequences that may arise? Build these into your plan. Any change impacting staff members comes with an additional layer of sensitivity and risk.

Finally, if your restructure is significant, consider hiring an outside expert or consultant to help prepare and navigate the change with your team.

3. Communicate and support transparency

Humans are naturally resistant to change. And change is hard, especially in the workplace. Establishing trust between you and your team is essential. Maintaining trust takes a concerted effort and can make or break your restructure.

As a practice owner, set a positive tone and make the commitment to communicate frequently. Help your staff understand why the change is needed and how this can be an exciting journey to move your firm forward.

You and your leaders should keep communication open and ongoing throughout the process with a clear and consistent message.

Be transparent. Communicate snags, delays or pivots from the original plan. Be upfront and answer questions as honestly as possible to alleviate unnecessary stress or worry from your team.

Recommended reading: Why communication is the most powerful tool for your accounting firm

If downsizing and lay-offs are part of the plan, you’ll need to anticipate and approach questions or concerns with sensitivity. Even if you don’t know yet how jobs may be impacted, honest and timely updates at each stage will go far.

Take the leap (carefully)

Just like a successful Michelin star restaurant painstakingly prepares for service each night, or a professional athlete conditions their body perfectly for competition, your organizational restructure will only be as successful as your preparation. 

Start with understanding the exact reasons behind the change, create an end-to-end plan, and remember to be transparent with your team throughout the entire journey. When done right, you have the power to transform your practice, your team, and your clients’ lives.