A new organisation design for a 2500-person Australian water utility

A new organisation design for a 2500-person Australian water utility


Sydney Water is a 2500-person utility that provides safe drinking water to five million people across Sydney, the Blue Mountains and the Illawara. The organisation also oversees wastewater and some stormwater services to help protect the health of rivers and beaches.

A new organisation structure to align with a new customer-focused strategy

Sydney Water sought to redesign their whole-of-organisation (2500 people) structure to align with its new customer-focused strategy and operating model.

Sydney Water went through a major operating model review. We chose Nous… to lead the way with fantastic results. Nous provided the team to cut through difficult issues [and] work with leaders on a new way of thinking. A new structure was put in place that delivered major value then and does so today.

Kevin Young

Managing Director, Sydney Water

Our new structure simplified and clarified for greater efficiency

Nous worked collaboratively with Sydney Water’s senior executive team to create a new whole-of-organisation structure. We:

  1. designed and supported implementation of a new organisational structure in an integrated eight-person (mixed Nous/client) team
  2. worked collaboratively with the Managing Director to design the new divisional structure, which was successfully implemented within three months of our engagement commencing
  3. designed the divisional structures, in collaboration with division heads and a wide range of stakeholders, drawing from detailed analysis of FTE, cost savings and centralised/ decentralised services
  4. at both the organisation and division level, as part of the work, designed a range of structural options based on other comparable organisations and assessed these options against the client’s design principles.

Our work also enabled Sydney Water to continue its own organisation design work into the future by developing internal capability.

The new structure increased centralisation and resulted in clear savings

Within the first three months, cost savings had been achieved as a direct result of the organisation design implementation. The new organisation structure reduced the number of divisions from eight to six, streamlined and centralised functions, and provided clearer accountabilities for different functional areas. The organisation restructure will continue to enable significant further savings over the next 2 – 3 years.

A wide range of stakeholders commented on Nous’ ability to deliver extensive, high quality outputs in a short period of six months with a nimble combined Nous/client team.

What other organisations can learn

  • Integrated co-design teams combine a client’s knowledge of their organisation and what they deliver with Nous’ expertise in organisation design for lasting impact
  • Agile, iterative design processes enable the repeated testing of structural options to ensure that proposed recommendations are tailored, realistic and easily implemented
  • Significant senior executive engagement results in better outcomes.