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Organization design blog

Creating a community

06/27/16  5:19 PM 

We all know that the UK population voted on its view of community on Thursday, about which I am not going to comment, except for noting that whatever the size of 'community', there are certain things that identify a group of people as being a community:

  • Feelings of membership: feelings of belonging to, and identifying with, the community.
  • Feelings of influence: feelings of having influence on, and being influenced by, the community.
  • Integration and fulfilment of needs: feelings of being supported by others in the community while also supporting them.
  • Shared emotional connection: feelings of relationships, shared history, and a "spirit" of community.

But as two people contacted me last week with questions about 'community' I thought I'd be topical – and give them a response. They asked:

1. 'What I am looking for is anything that would stimulate the debate about is there a transformation leadership community, if there is who are they and what distinguishes them as a community and how do we create that?'
2. 'We are keen to start a conversation with the wider organisation design community about next steps in building our community and developing our collective capacity – can you give us your views on this?'

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The Ship of Theseus

06/20/16  4:27 PM 

The other day I read something about a broom that someone had used for 20 years and during the period it had needed 7 new handles and 8 new heads. The question was 'Is it the same broom as it was when it was bought?' Apparently this is a variant of the philosophical paradox the 'Ship of Theseus'. (90 second explanation here. 8 minute explanation here).

It seemed relevant as I'm gearing myself up to write the 3rd edition of my book Organisation Design: Engaging with Change. The first edition was published in 2004 and the second in 2014. Although I'd promised myself and my family I'd never write another book after that second edition I let myself be persuaded by the editor who assured me that 'I would expect updating for a third edition to be a smaller job than it was previously. The jump from first to second edition saw a big overhaul of the text (given that almost a decade had passed), while I imagine that the crucial changes this time around would be more manageable.'

The editor asked me to suggest what I would do differently in a third edition – which was the easy bit - and then sent these ideas + a copy of the second edition to 5 reviewers asking whether a third edition should go ahead.

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Different perspectives

06/13/16  4:06 PM 

I spent last week walking the Great Glen Way in Scotland. It's a glorious route and we were lucky with both the weather and the lack of midges. If I believe all the research then I should be back at work this week more productive, thinking more positively, being more creative, and with a fresh perspective.

Not only that, walking is supposed to have miracle benefits too so, in theory, I will be well able to deal with whatever has happened in my week off but I can't tell yet as I am writing this on Sunday evening, before I switch on my work laptop to find out what has been going on. I'm taking comfort in the statement that '[Work] life won't fall apart if you take two weeks off -— in fact your work might actually improve'. (I wonder, does it hold if you only take one week off?)

Although I can't tell whether my productivity and positive thinking has improved I can talk about the fresh perspectives. I came home with three:

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What Works: Gender Equality by Design

06/06/16  1:14 PM 

If I'd started by reading the last chapter of Iris Bohnet's book, What Works: Gender Equality by Design first instead of beginning at the first chapter and working my way through to the end, I would have found out that

a) we can reduce gender inequality rapidly if we are 'armed with data'
b) 'a good leader is a behavioral designer'
c) she would offer 'thirty-six research-grounded design suggestions' to help the good leaders reduce gender inequality.

I might have been sceptical of the first two assertions, and dubious about the efficacy of thirty-six suggestions. (Thus demonstrating some of the cognitive biases she talks about). As it was, I started at the beginning and was immediately hooked into her persuasive arguments on how to rapidly reduce gender inequality, backed up by research studies and masses of examples. I noted pages to revisit. The list is long. The book is full of nuggets of interest to explore further. As I read I was looking for stuff that was immediately practical, that we could try out in our organisation and that might have a positive impact on gender equality. (In 2013 we had a total workforce that was 68.9% female and 31.1% male, but at the highest levels the numbers reverse to 39.5% female and 60.5% male).

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Consulting skills for HR or not for HR?

05/30/16  3:22 PM 

A few years ago I wrote an article published by Croner, 'HR and Organisation Development: what is the relationship? Is it going anywhere?' in which I said:

The history of the two disciplines [Human Resources and Organisation Design and Development – HR and ODD] makes it appropriate to ask whether they have the "gene compatibility" to converge. There are good arguments from both those who feel they should remain separate and also those who maintain either that OD is a subset of HR, or that HR is a subset of OD.'

I then explored the various arguments. Last week variants of this discussion surfaced again in multiple forums and in real life, not in theory. I won't go into the ins and outs of it but the sensitivities and tensions around it have caused me – well various emotions, thoughts, and reasons to consider the stances.

Not only that and in the usual synchronicity of stuff, this week I've been asked if I'd facilitate two workshops – two unrelated requests - later this year on skills for organisation design and development consultants, and I've been commenting on a capability guide we've been developing for internal consultants based on the Institute of Consulting's framework.

Additionally, we've been having a debate on whether HR Business Partners can be good ODD consultants.

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Transformation is a team sport

05/23/16  4:46 PM 

Like many organisations intent on using new (digital) technologies to improve business performance, we've got a strapline running that 'Transformation is a team sport'. The 'rules' of the sport include three that are particularly relevant to organisation design:

1. Working across silos: 'knowing that your customers care less about the different lines-of-business within your company; they simply care about a consistent user experience'. To get to this means structure, systems, process and measurement changes, not to mention associated cultural changes.
2. Leadership evolving to accompany transformation: this can be a stretch when leaders see nothing as 'broken', but have yet to be convinced that what they do see is anachronistic. To help leaders evolve means steering a careful course that avoids the sensitivities that something is 'wrong' instead offering a low risk suggestion that opportunities are being missed. It requires sets of subtle approaches and not a big bang transformation approach.
3. Recognising that 'business transformation is not just about use of mobile, social, cloud and analytics solutions, but also about the entire ecosystem of connections (systems and people), starting with employees'. This means involving employees in the transformation work a 'movement not mandate' approach that is counter-cultural in many organisations.

During the week I was working with a group discussing how we could act on the strapline and three questions each related to one of the rules above arose:

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    Naomi Stanford
  • Naomi Stanford is an author, teacher,
    consultant and expert in organization design.
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