The Simple Restructuring Rule

There are two big predators in the sea

Sharks and Dolphins

They came from very different starting points:

  • A shark is a fish
  • A dolphin is a mammal
  • A shark has gills
  • A dolphin has lungs
  • A shark is cold-blooded
  • A dolphin is warm-blooded
  • A shark lays eggs
  • A dolphin has live young

Biologically they would struggle to be more different

But they evolved

They have both developed to fulfill the same role

  • They both have sharp teeth
  • They both have streamlined bodies
  • They both have powerful musculature
  • They are both killers

The lesson is simple:

It doesn’t matter where you start only where you finish

There are two ways to organise your business

Centralise or decentralise

They are very different propositions:

  • Centralisation allows specialisation
  • Decentralisation brings you close to the customer
  • Centralisation allows control
  • Decentralisation allows empowerment
  • Centralisation provides clarity
  • Decentralisation provides flexibility

Intellectually they would struggle to be more different

But we never move on

In the great centralisation versus decentralisation debate we just keep reorganizing and flipping from one model to the next.  It takes us nowhere

The lesson is the same

If we can’t agree where the starting line is, how do we ever expect to finish?

Please, decide and move on

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Shark or Dolphin

Read another opinion

Image by mriggen


  1. Hi James,
    Doesn’t ‘deciding’ require being honest with ourselves and others of what we are, what we’ve done and where we come from?

    That, it would appear, seems to be hard for many.

    Maybe ‘honesty’ and ‘deciding’ could become competitive advantages.


  2. Hello James

    It occurs to me that the question of centralisation and decentralisation is one that has everything to do with the being of those in power.

    If the person in power is one whose being is fearful of disorder and distrustful of his fellows then he will find himself attracted and eventually addicted to order. Order requires control and so this kind of person will seek to control through centralisation. This kind of person is most comfortable in authority relationships where the rules of the game are clear and consistently applied. These kind of people tend to be professional managers.

    If on the other hand you have a person who has had positive experience with the variety-flexibility-mystery of the world and come to be trusting of his fellows then you have a person who will favour decentralisation. For this kind of person, centralisation will occur as being unnecessary. These kind of people are the ones that tend to be creative. They tend to be the ones that set up new businesses, undertake new ventures. These kind of people tend to have a high confidence in themselves and their ability to dance with life.

    So it occurs to me that when you have changes in the Tops you are likely to have swings between centralisation and decentralisation.

    At your service

  3. Can you have both?

    What organizations do you know of that have managed to combine centralization – of agreeing standards and values and principles? – with decentralization – of control over responding to events, and handling the day to day work?

    To me this would imply a climate of trust and an absence of fear.

    Thank you for the post, made me think.

    • James Lawther says:

      I’m sure you can Bob, and maybe that is a very good way to set out your stall.

      I guess though that most organisations would busily argue about who should own “the standard” or “responding to events” and consequently sink into a long and drawn out argument about roles and responsibilities, power and accountability.

      Which would do nothing for the climate of trust and fear which you (and I) want.

      Thanks very much for your comment


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