What changes are being contemplated in managerial structure, and how could this affect my position?

During the diagnostic phase of the OE2C project, our research revealed that our most efficient and effective peers in higher education utilize flattened and less hierarchical organizational structures, with fewer “layers” and larger “spans.”

“Layers” refers to the number of management layers between the President and the front line employees who serve our students, faculty and staff. Reducing layers allows for faster, streamlined decision-making and less bureaucracy in performing work.

“Span” refers to the number of direct reports each manager oversees. Organizational research on higher education institutions suggests that managers are more effective when they have between six and eight direct reports, on average.

Increasing spans focuses our supervisors on the highest-value work and allows our individual contributors to report to managers who can provide appropriate feedback, evaluation and support. The overall goal of Spans and Layers is to increase the nimbleness and productiveness of SMU’s organizational structure.

However, the analysis only serves as a starting point to help our leaders design the optimal organizational structure that will deliver on the mission of their VP area or Academic Unit. In some cases there are reasons for smaller spans, such as where a unit is small and specialized and cannot reasonably be combined with another.

VPs and deans are carefully considering their organizational structures, including managers of fewer than six employees, and may choose to address them in a number of ways. While some supervisory positions may be eliminated, many others may:

• Gain more direct reports
• Be combined with another department
• No longer supervise and return to being an individual contributor
• Report to a new area
• Experience little or no change

The goal is to create a more effective and efficient organization that is positioned to reinvest in our academic mission, not to make wholesale cuts. Rather than reduce or eliminate services or service levels, the work of the Organization Design Initiative should ensure that the structure of management best supports the mission of a unit.

By Aayush Chandra

SMU Meadows Marketing & Communications