It's noticeable how people think about organization design from the mindset of design = structure i.e. the organization chart, layers and spans of people, and reporting lines. Most managers I work with take this view as they "re-structure" by first redrawing their organization chart.
This tendency is not particularly surprising but it is limiting and risky. If one takes the definition of organization design as: "arranging how work shall be done in order to achieve a business purpose and strategy" looking first at structure is limiting because it is not looking at the work to be done, and this limits the thinking about various possible structural options.
Work can flow in a number of different ways - first mapping the ideal workflow, noting handoffs, interdependencies, decision points, and so on allows, as a second step, the design of a structure that optimizes the work flow. Usually two or three different options for the structure emerge in this exercise and deciding which one to implement then becomes a considered choice related to ease/difficulty of aligning all other elements of the system to deliver the work.
Thinking of the structure first is risky because implementing a new organization chart has unintended consequences - the work may not flow through it, worker's networks (necessary for getting the work done) may be disrupted, systems and processes may not work in the new structure, etc.
Changing your mindset about design - so that it is not about structure but about an organizational system - brings some benefits. Consider the analogy of the bar code - the black and white product label that is scanned at supermarket checkouts. If you always think of it as being rectangular with the black and white lines arranged in different combinations you are precluding the possibilities that it could a) be structured differently and b) be used for various purposes beyond product data.
Thinking of barcodes from a different perspective allows a number of other possibilities emerge. This is just what Bar Code Revolution (a Japanese agency) has done. Take a look at their website and you'll see a wide range of designs that embrace bar codes but include messages, brand logos, and ideas with a "fun twist". "In one on a men's hair care product package, for instance, the bar code appears as strands of hair on a man's head." Because bar codes take up package space using them in novel ways (i.e. thinking differently about their purpose and value) makes sense and adds value.
Another example of thinking about things differently caught my eye recently. This time it is the capturing of demographic data - normally shown on a bar chart or in a standard statistical way - as ceramic urns. Paris designer Mathieu Lehanneur captures demographic data in enameled ceramic, with 99-year-olds at the top and newborns at the bottom. "My goal was to transform the demographic data into a more emotional object," he says. The diverse forms surprised him, but perhaps they shouldn't have: Many European vessels are slimmer in the middle due to World War II, and recessions usually produce inward curves." (See Tab 36 on the designer's website).
If managers would stop thinking about organization design in terms of structure and start thinking about questions like what is the purpose of the structure, how does it relate to other aspects of the organization, what other ways could the organization be designed and achieve its purpose with a fun twist in a novel and value adding way there would, in all likelihood, be a lot less angst, downtime, and resistance to 'restructuring'.