In the midst of the offseason for MLB and MLS continues, plans for offseason changes are developing, and it is often the time leaders take to re-evaluate their strategic objectives and quality of departments. During this evaluation and planning period, CEO’s or GM’s or Owners might decide to restructure a sports department that may not be performing as well as it should be.
The goal of a restructure should always be to realign a department with the organization's direction and establish new standards that meet organizational objectives. This however, is much easier said than done and often demands careful thought, evaluation, and planning before execution.
When is Restructuring Needed?
Given the pace of change, we can expect sports organizations to restructure every 2–3 years but may be necessary sooner when a department:
Fails to meet its goals and objectives
Is misaligned with the organization's strategic direction
Shows inefficiency in producing results
Creates tension with other departments
Fails to deliver the right return on investment (ROI)
If one or more of the criteria above is met, then the decision to restructure is imminent. But for it to be sustainable, there are some key considerations that should be taken into account.
1. The “Size of the Gap”
The first step is to evaluate the gap between the current state of the department and where it needs to be in the future.
The key question to ask is, if we retained the status quo of department operations (e.g., processes, technology, cross-department relations) and capability (e.g., leaders, skills) - could we meet our current and future ambitions as an organization?
This gap can vary in size:
A small gap might require minor adjustments, like process redesign, new technology or re-allocation of resources.
A large gap may necessitate a more radical approach, rethinking the department's entire purpose and function from a “blank slate.”
Understanding this gap helps in determining the scale of the restructuring needed.
2. Capability to Lead and Implement Change
There are two critical factors to delivering an effective restructure:
The right leader: Before any type of transformation can occur, the right leader needs to be in place to help direct and manage. While effective management skills are important, trust of the CEO, other department leaders, and staff will underpin its success.
Influential ‘change agents’: As above, ideally, the department's leader will be front and center to drive this change, however it is helpful to have one or two influential individuals within the department to help reinforce and drive change. We refer to these people as ‘change agents’. These change agents are pivotal in motivating and implementing change at all levels and minimizing resistance. If internal change agents are not identified, external third-party consultants can provide the necessary support and guidance.
3. Time and Capital to Deliver Results
Finally, it's essential to recognize that all changes require both time and capital. The scale of restructuring desired will depend on the available resources. Even small-scale changes can take 3-6 months to settle into the new norm. Therefore, planning for the time and capital investment is a crucial part of the restructuring process. Work back from when you need to be realizing results, and assume 150% of the capital and time to reach that point.
Restructuring a sports department within the offseason settings is not just about making changes but doing so in a way that aligns with the strategic vision of the organization. By understanding the scope of change, leveraging the influence of change agents, and adequately planning for time and capital investment, sports executives can ensure that these changes lead to sustainable growth and success.
By Luke Casey-Leigh