Organization Design Blog
Organization design blog
This is an extract from Chapter 2 of my new book Organization Design: Engaging with Change, published last week (November 21 2013). To find out more about the book and order a copy here.
When people are trying to decide the 'best' structure for their organization they often forget that work has to flow through it, and that different structures have different attributes. For example, that adaptability is poor in a traditional hierarchy but good in a network. Instead structure decisions are often made based on personalities, politics, and expediency. This is a mistake on two counts. First, failing to explicitly recognize that structure choices impact organizational capabilities, and second that getting work done efficiently in order to meet organizational goals is, or should be, the purpose of the organizing frameworks and structures.
The possibilities that technology now offers for charting the way work actually gets done in organizations and the advent of new business models raises some questions about who 'owns' the design of the organization and where should the 'owner' reside in the organization.
Identifying who owns the design is not always clear cut. Consider the business model of LiveOps, established in 2000. It deploys cloud computing to virtualize its business services. It is a cloud-based call centre service that manages a network of more than 20,000 independent at-home agents. Companies use the service on a pay-as-you-go model, either as a fully outsourced call center or to augment their own. The technology enables an on-demand, scalable service to subscribers. The relationship of the stakeholders – LiveOps, the independent agents, and the companies buying the services of the agents via Live Ops is not easily depicted in a standard chart.
'They're building a wall
Between water and land
So we can eat fruit
And they can eat sand'
I stayed a few nights at a hotel the other week that bills itself as 'Eco friendly, stylish and cozy, carefully designed by professional designers, creates a unique chill-out ambience to make you feel happy and relaxed. Set right on the unspoiled white sandy beach, lined with palm trees and washed by the warm, turquoise waters of the Indian Ocean, it's a perfect gateway from every-day life.' What I experienced was all of that and it was glorious.
And then I remarked on the fact that a high stone wall surrounded the hotel. From my room I could see clearly the hotel side of the wall – beautifully tended gardens with watered bougainvillea, electric night lighting along the paths, and carefully positioned pieces of sculpture.
I could also see on the other side of the wall arid scrubland, a well-populated village with no sanitation, no electricity, a single well for all the villagers, and a ramshackle collection of small mud and thatch one-room dwellings. 88% of that country's population lives on less than $2 USD per day. My breakfast (with fruit) was $7 USD. I felt uneasy with my privilege.
Who hasn't asked themselves 'What shall I do with my life?' As far as I can tell it's not a one off question but one repeatedly asked by individuals at various stages in their lives as they continue a search for identity, purpose, or meaning. The people I talk with are usually asking the question in relation to choices around making or earning enough to be financially self-sufficient because, as we're all well aware a 'job for life' is not half as common as it once was, fewer of us are engaged in the jobs that we do, and the job that we are doing may be different in the next few years anyway. Because the work that we do shapes and defines us it is important to make good choices - 'we are what we do'.
Po Bronson wrote a book 'What shall I do with my life?'. He interviewed people who'd made radical career/job changes in their search for meaning. I remember reading with delight about Don Linn who'd given up a career in investment banking with First Boston (he was a Harvard MBA and VP) to become a cat fish farmer. I almost did something similar. I decided to become a bee keeper. I took bee-keeping courses, one at Roots and Shoots in London and developed a business plan to open a bee keeping farm and honey production facility, and found a place that would be perfect for keeping multiple hives.
On Saturday I was speaking at the sixth annual Create West Virginia conference. This one was held in Richwood, West Virginia. It's a town with, on the face of it, not a lot going for it. It used to be a lumber and coal mining center but as the industries shut down so the people left.
Its Main Street consists now of 29 mostly boarded-up storefronts of early 1900 vintage and its residents now drive 25 miles west to Summersville where the big box stores are located on a four-lane corridor that connects two Interstate highways. The conference organizer, Rebecca Kimmons, told me that 'Richwood appears to be a ghost town, but its 2,000 residents, led by a creative, spunky mayor, believes that it can recreate itself.' (See my blog piece of June 17 on how I got the invitation to this)
We arrived there after dark on Friday and looked for the 'Red Gym' where we thought things would be happening. They were. Dinner was being prepared for the participants by Tim Urbanic of Cafe Cimino and Dale Hawkins who'd teamed up to cater the three days and there was a drinks reception with a local brewery, Bridge Brew Works and winery (Kirkwood) at the 'pop-up' Gray Seas Cafe on Main Street.
What I found delightful about the conference was the whole 'pop-up' concept taken to extreme. The conference center popped up in buildings used by the High School. (Rebecca had deliberately looked for a host town that had no conference facilities). 25 shops popped up on Main Street – all artisan wares. The old 'Richwood Banking and Trust' building popped up as a coffee house featuring evening jazz. Cross town broadband connectivity popped up. It was a kind of instant 3-day recreation of the town, giving a real insight into what it could be the future if the community rallied to make it so.
On Monday I was in a one-day workshop where the theme for the day was "A Good Life" and the purpose of the day was 'to collectively immerse ourselves into high-level questions that guide our work and thinking: How can design and architecture help shape "a good life"? What is our perspective on the future of performance? The future of health and wellbeing? The future of community? The future of learning?'
This was a difficult day and theme for me because over the previous few days I'd been involved in the sadness and distress following the fact that 'Alice ... committed suicide on the 26th Sept 2013. She had been exhausted by the housing and harassment issues she faced over a period of years and the poor/negative response from the authorities. These circumstances are to be considered at an inquest to be held in the near future.
She was an amazingly beautiful, wise and strong woman who despite her very difficult personal circumstances over recent years, gave all her energy to caring for others around her and all those who face injustice in the world. Alice was especially a proud feminist and her work in this area will be continued by all those she inspired, laughed with and loved.' The costs for Alice's most basic funeral were raised by donation.
Tomorrow I head back to Washington DC after a month's worth of work travel: 5 countries (China, Austria, Romania, UK, The Netherlands), 10 presentations and workshops, various hotels, airports, railway stations, metro systems, buses, taxis and languages. At this point I'm tempted to write about packing techniques, hints for mastering airport security lines, methods of minimizing currency confusion, how not to lose important items, and what seems to work to keep the 'day job' going during a period of patchy internet access, changing time zones, and missing smart-phone alerts to call-in to a meeting back at base. But instead I'm sticking with the organization design theme.
One of my colleagues on Friday asked what were the preoccupations and questions I was hearing from people in these various presentations and workshops – anything in common across them? It was a great question that caused me to mentally skim over various perspectives of organization I'd been discussing over the month: four workshops on methods of organization design, four seminars on aspects of the future of work and how this might affect organization design, one session on organizational health, and another on changing the culture of an organization. All told somewhat over 350 people representing private and public sector, multiple nationalities and job roles attended the events. Each event needed a different set of information, PowerPoint, handouts, etc.
In 1992 The Work of Nations: Preparing Ourselves for 21st Century Capitalism was published. In it author Robert Reich says that 'Essentially, three broad categories of work are emerging, corresponding to the three different competitive positions in which Americans find themselves. The same three categories are taking shape in other nations. Call them production services, in person services, and symbolic-analytic services'. (p 205)
In person services have been top of my mind this week: I'm increasingly noticing that what were in-person services are not now. What did Reich mean by in-person services? Twenty years ago he says that 'In-person servers are in direct contact with the ultimate beneficiaries of their work. ... included in this category are retail sales workers, waiters and waitresses, hotel workers, janitors, cashiers, hospital attendants and orderlies, nursing-home aides, child-care workers, house cleaners, home health-care aides, taxi drivers, secretaries, hairdressers, auto mechanics, sellers of residential real estate, flight attendants, physical therapists, and – amongst the fastest growing of all – security guards'.
Look at the list above. How many are still 'in-person services' in your experience? Last week I did the following:
- Checked in and checked out of two hotels
- Checked into flights
- Bought railway tickets
- Entered a country
- Got money from more than one bank
- Bought goods from supermarkets
On Monday last week I was facilitating a session on neuroscience in business at the Cambridge Network. While I was preparing for it I scanned through my blog pieces to find out how many times I have referenced neuroscience since I started writing the blog in 2009. It turns out to be in ten blogs. I then re-read the section in my forthcoming book Organization Design: Engaging with Change that has a piece about neuroscience in one of the chapters. What I was reminding myself of was the number of points where neuro-something touches organization design. It's quite a few.
Undoubtedly what scientists are discovering about brain function will continue to change the way we approach and work with organization design and development. But we need to be cautious about what we appear to know. Although seems as if we know a lot about 'hard wiring', brain sections 'lighting up' and so on which we take as 'evidence' for certain things we are currently in the very early, elementary, and unsophisticated stages of being able to speak with certainty on neuro stuff applied to organization design and development. Nevertheless it is an exciting and appealing arena and one where already lots of happiness coaches and neuro-marketers are doing very well.
Is 347 emails a lot to answer in one week? I don't know but that's what I did. I get about 200 per day – a lot of which I just either read because they're subscriptions to info or ones that don't really need any reply beyond things like 'thanks' or 'good to hear'. The 347 required me to think carefully, for example, reviewing someone's document, working out how I can do a joint presentation with someone and have it come across as seamless teamwork (I'm working on three of those at the moment each with a different person), responding to a request for information which means hunting through stuff.
I got curious about emails this week because various things caused me to think that we've got stuck in the notion that emails are not part of 'the work'. It reminds me of the staff room in the college I used to teach in where we would say 'teaching would be great if it weren't for the students.' Wouldn't it be less stressful all round if we accepted that the way a lot of the work gets done is via emails and other types of social media channel and then designed our lives and our work accepting the reality of emails, IM, tweets, etc. etc? They are not going to go away at least in the immediate although they may change form.
I liked the nugget in the Lucy Kellaway series on The History of Office Life that mentioned the horror people felt at the introduction of the telephone which they thought would constantly interrupt things. 'New technology including the telephone, telegraph, typewriters, adding machines, and even filing cabinets revolutionized office work in the late 19th century. In particular the telephone was looked on suspiciously in the UK. Britain's chief post office engineer, Sir William Preece, told a House of Commons committee : "I have one in my office, but more for show. If I want to send a message, I employ a boy to take it."'
I'm wondering if there is any reliable information that assesses whether time spent developing organizational career ladders and lattices is worth the organizational investment. Do we really know that people's careers follow a plan along a path or is the reality much more chaotic? Would a free internal labor market work just as well and be much more cost/time/resource effective than having countless hours spent on succession planning, career/talent management discussions, and so on?
The last time I developed a fully-fledged career paths system was in 2002. I know it was that year as this week I looked at the employee guide we produced as part of the implementation because I was being interviewed by someone in an organization that is 'launching research into developing common career path frameworks (lateral and vertical) within organizations'. In return for giving my views I will be provided with 'a full copy of our research report'.
Looking at this 11 year old document it struck me as being hopelessly old-fashioned for now, even though it contains many of the design features of what is currently known as a 'lattice careers paths' that are individually determined. For example, in guide we said that career development is:
'About opening up options which enable you to progress in the business. Ultimately it will be about deciding and agreeing the path your career will take. It is a partnership between you and your line manager in which you have personal responsibility for driving your career and your personal development.
You will be supported with honest, realistic feedback on your performance and capability from your line manager and will be given access to relevant development opportunities. To career plan effectively you need to understand the potential career paths available.'
This week I've been thinking about the role of leaders vis a vis HR Business Partners – and HR more generally - in designing organizations. I get asked lots of questions on this topic and have just been asked again but the factor that makes this a more complex question is that it has come from some consultants in China.
The complexity arises because the bulk of the stuff written about organization design and HR that I come across is from a US or European perspective – a perspective that in my experiences of teaching organization design in China, and then talking with various people on the topic creates tensions for Chinese leaders and HR practitioners that are different from those created in western cultures.
Globally, there are five distinctive trends shaping organization designs:
1. Accelerating digital transformation means among other things that organizations are becoming more transparent (e.g. via organizational network mapping), work becomes what you do not where you do it, information is easily available to many rather than few, and more work can be automated
2. Increasing knowledge gains from bio and neuro science research is shedding light onto aspects of decision making, choice taking, behavior patterns, learning styles, social patterns, meaning making and so on,
3. Changing demographic profiles are leading to flexible working patterns, changes to incentive and reward schemes, recruitment and retention issues, and innovative talent and career management approaches
4. Developing concerns around resource use (water, energy, other natural resources) and environmental sustainability/climate change are impacting the ways buildings are designed, urban centers are laid out, and transport and infrastructures are planned
5. Growing anxiety about the widening rich/poor divide in certain economies is leading to calls for people to be paid a living wage and not just the minimum wage, anger at 'fat-cat' remuneration, civic unrest and in some organizations attention turning towards ways of adding social/community value
'The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new' – this was a useful quote, attributed to Socrates, (but see endnote to this blog) to get in my in-box this week as I've been asked to help design a half day workshop for a healthcare client.
They've had tidal waves of change during 2013: they've been preparing for a location move – happening next month, they have a new CEO and several new senior leadership team members, they have new business processes, their client base is changing, and they've had to keep the day to day operational. Through all this a lot of the staff have felt stressed and anxious.
However, things are not going to get less challenging and they might get even more challenging in the coming year(s). Immediately, they face implementing aspects of the US Affordable Care Act, switching their patients to a new records system, extending their range of services, contending with likely cuts in funding and managing the general scrimmage that comes from aiming to offer improved patient experience and better outcomes.
Would you be willing to nudge a co-worker towards wellness by saying something like: 'Let's take the stairs instead of the elevators'? In our action learning set last week the topic was developing a healthy workforce. The plan was to discuss how designers of workplace could be encouraging and enabling movement and active-work to enhance health and productivity by providing space for walking meetings, asking questions about standing vs. sitting at desks, and considering healthier modes of getting to work. We were asked to ponder three questions prompted from the pre-read material. (This is listed at the end of this blog).
1. How much is it 'ok' for employers to 'nudge' their employees to better health? E.g. via walks to printers, etc.
2. Is employee health a US preoccupation tied to healthcare costs or is it really about business performance?
3. How can workplace contribute to workplace health in the absence of a 'wellness program'?
As we assembled, one snag immediately hit. Only two out of eight or so attendees had read the pre-read (and they were the discussion leads). In my experience this is common. In most situations, people do not read the pre-reads.
This lack of pre-read participation made me wonder whether it was due to lack of time/will/interest or something else. We constantly read about the torrent of information that we are expected to deal with every day in our organizational life. Surely this is detrimental to health and wellness? And a number of articles and books suggest this is so.
Last week I got an intriguing invitation that runs as follows:
'I am working on several fronts right now, putting together the most ambitious, audacious conference ever in the State of West Virginia, Create West Virginia's Conference on the Future. ... to take place Thursday, October 24 through Saturday, October 26 2013.
I am asking ... thinkers on the future to come to Richwood, West Virginia, a town surrounded by the magnificent Monongahela National Forest, that has a trout stream flowing through it. Richwood's Main Street consists now of 29 mostly boarded-up storefronts of early 1900 vintage. Once a lumber and coal boom town, its residents now drive 25 miles west to Summersville where the big box stores are located on a four-lane corridor that connects two Interstate highways. Richwood appears to be a ghost town, but its 2,000 residents, led by a creative, spunky mayor, believe that it can recreate itself.
We're casting the invitation to the conference very broadly, to economic and community developers, artists and artisans, business people and would-be business people - we're interested in engaging innovators who relish the challenge of reinventing a place, and who want to engage in dialogue with thoughtful people such as yourself.'
Who could resist investigating this further? I took a look at the Richwood city data. It's lost 17.2% of its population since 2000. The median resident age is 49 and the median income is $26,366. In 2012 the unemployment rate was 8.7% and the number of residents living below the poverty level (2009) was 30%, and there were 12 % of Residents with income below 50% of the poverty level in 2009.
Disruptive Technologies: advances that will transform life, business, and the global economy, a report from the McKinsey Global Institute came out in May 2013. It's long, but fascinating. There's an executive summary if you can't find time for 170 or so pages.
Researchers considered over a hundred different technologies and came to the conclusion that, of these, twelve were likely to radically – perhaps completely - change organizational and working life. (The report has a lot of data to back up the points they make and a good reference list). However, rather than be dogmatic about their assertions they add the sensible reminder that 'By definition such an exercise is incomplete – technology and innovations always surprise'. They say that the technologies they reflect on 'are illustrative of emerging applications over the next decade or two and provide a good indication of the size and shape of the impact that these applications could have.'
The report should be read by every organizational design and development practitioner, not to mention business leaders and managers, for three reasons that I discuss below:
1. To develop or deepen insight into what is on the technology horizon
2. To assess the likely impact of the technologies on their organization.
3. To take planned action to develop their organizational capability to use the technologies effectively before it's too late
Keeping up with technology trends and planning/acting in relation to them should, in fact, be a continuous activity for OD & D practitioners but in my experience they do far too little of it. (See my blog piece on Business Savvy).
The room I was working in for four days last week had two notices that caused merriment to the organization design groups I was working with. One notice pinned to the smartboard said 'Do not write on this board', and the other said 'no hot drinks to be brought into the room'. There were a number of other notices in the public areas of the office all peremptory in tone, mostly beginning 'no .. ' or 'do not ..." . The no hot drinks one led to discussion, speculation and conspiracy – we all wanted to bring coffee into the room. Why were cold drinks ok and not hot? Would a hot drink allowed to stand and go cold still count as a hot drink? Were people checking the waste bins to see if there were hot drink cups in it? What was the penalty for breaking the 'rule'? Why was it instituted in the first place? Would people whistle-blow if a colleague brought a hot drink into the room? Etc. (The no writing on the smartboard was fine because we didn't need a board to write on, although it was still a perplexing notice).
In the way of things as soon as I started to think about self-designed jobs several relevant items flung themselves into my path. Once I read that this sort of event is called 'reticular activation', for example, when you read a word you haven't seen before and look it up you then see it constantly ever after and can't imagine why you didn't notice it before.
The topic of self-designed jobs came my way as I was working on my conference presentation – The Future of Work for The Economist Talent Management Summit and in particular the three types of work that Robert Reich talks about in his book The Work of Nations. He describes three types – routine, person to person, and symbolic analytic (knowledge work). Someone suggested a fourth category to me of 'artisan' which I go along with.
I've had an instructive almost-three-days with my mother this weekend. She's 96 and lives independently in her own flat with no household support beyond a young woman who comes to clean her place for 2 hours once every two weeks. She seems to do well enough in an environment that she's used to. The Tesco metro is across the street, she is close to bus stops, the temperature in the house is set to maintain a steady agreeable warmth, and so on.
Nevertheless there are things she can't do well: open screw top jars, change light bulbs, bend to get things from the bottom of the fridge, walk outside without the aid of a cane or a walker, see small print, or hear in the presence of any background noise.
She wanted to visit Ireland where she was born. And that's what we did. Although I have spent time with her traveling (we went for the weekend to Paris last year) this time I was acutely aware of the design aspects of aging and started to wonder about this for both older people in the workforce and for older people who have left the workforce.
Here's a short survey I just made up: Do you:
- Attend a webinar?
- Participate in a webinar i.e. pose or answer a question, or comment?
- Log into a webinar and do something else while it's going on?
- Learn from a webinar?
Over the last two weeks I've logged into five webinars and participated in three and attended (i.e. didn't interact with the technology) two. Here's the list - some of them are available to replay:
I've also attended three presentations using Webex or Go-to Meeting, or Lync
- A session demonstrating some software
- A presentation about one US state's healthcare system
- A faculty briefing (I teach on-line) on 'Planning for the Future'
which might qualify as webinars (which I take to be formal informational/learning events) but they feel different. One I participated in but the other two I found myself multitasking i.e. logging in and doing something else.
Additionally, I participated in several operational meetings where people were just sharing a desktop as the meeting proceeded. These definitely do not qualify as webinars but would benefit from some of the disciplines of well run ones. Further, I've proposed a series of seven webinars to a client, and also discussed with a co-facilitator on a different client project the possibility of running action learning sessions via collaborative technologies, not quite webinars but on the same lines. So all reasons why I've got webinars on my mind,
Google's St Patrick's Day graphic made me smile this morning. It's of Irish dancers and they're dancing. I'm also amused by the animated emoticons I can send on Skype. My favorite is the bear hug one. It makes the thousands of miles that separate me from my daughters feel less as I send them the bear hug. What's fun about things like that is that they are simple expressions of cheerfulness and I've spent time this week thinking about celebration and fun at work.
I've reached the section in the new book I'm writing where I give the instruction to 'Celebrate success' as you go through an organization design transition. But now I'm not sure whether that's what I want to write about. I think as well as celebrating success – which seems more spasmodic than frequent – ramping up the everyday fun aspects of transitioning would be good. We tend to focus on 'issues' on what's not working, and the drudge aspects. But a week of reading stuff on positive psychology and how various workplaces work (or not) suggest that everyday fun and keeping spirits up is what makes things work better than addressing 'issues' in a po-faced, and sometimes punitive way.
I was working with a client group the other day who'd got the high level design ready and were working to detail the operational design and implementation plan. We had a discussion on the resources required to move from the current to planned redesign and they came up with the following
Tangible resources required
Intangible resources required
The right politics
It seems like an eclectic list but for their project it made sense. What is interesting about it is that it specifies intangibles that are needed: things that they felt could be derailers and that needed intentional activity to obtain. Sometimes it is difficult to work out what resources, either tangible or intangible, are needed and if this is the case a good approach is to try out Gary Klein's pre mortem exercise.
At the beginning of last week at the European Organization Design Forum meeting in London I was presenting on the future of work. At the end of the week I was a panelist on FedTalk (Federal News Radio) discussing the challenges US government agencies are facing in developing a workforce of mobile workers . And at some point during the week someone asked me how I handled resistance to change in organization design work. Now I'm sitting on the flight back to DC and I'm wondering about resistance. I have several questions in my mind on this:
1. Does the thought of future work patterns, including mobile working, inevitably provoke resistance from stakeholders?
2. If the answer is 'yes' are there any groups of stakeholders who are particularly resistant to thinking about new ways of working and, if so, for what reasons?
3. Is there then an automatic assumption among organization design and development people that where resistance is evident then it somehow either unjustifiable or wrong and must be 'managed' (i.e. overcome)?
4. If the answer to this is 'yes' are there ways of thinking about resistance not as a barrier but as a positive, healthy, and normal response to work practice changes?
5. If so how can resistance lead to conversation and dialogue that yields useful information and new insights to a design project?
I'll briefly tackle each one of the five questions and see what I come up with. (I've always rather liked the quote from somewhere 'When I hear what I say, I'll know what I think'.)
Last week a client said that what her employees were really looking for in the coming months, as they go through a change in responsibilities was a roadmap. That set me wondering what a roadmap is, what it is used for and what I've learned about them.
What a roadmap is
People in the organizational development and design fields often talk about roadmaps. Just take a look at Google Images response to the question: 'What is an organization development roadmap?' and you will see a huge number of possibilities. I was struck by the one that's actually a book title: Roadmap: How to Understand, Diagnose and Fix Your Organization. There seems to be some mix-up in ideas here. The sub-title is more like a car maintenance manual, though I guess if I'm driving along and the car breaks down then the maintenance manual might help.
Take your pick at the end of the year. It's either review of the past year, or predictions for the coming year or resolutions, or the impossible to avoid 'Sales'. So far I have managed to avoid buying anything in a sale, unless you count a secondhand book from the Oxfam bookshop which was at second hand book price and not an even more cut down 'sale' price. Apparently the UK hit an all-time record this year in the shopping spree that started on Boxing Day.
Boxing Day set a new British record for online shopping, figures showed today as crowds descended on high streets once again for another day of frenzied sales.
While thousands of shoppers queued outside stores up and down the country to get ahead of the game, millions more made the most of tumbling prices from the comfort of their own homes.
Fears of consumers tightening their belts in the face of tough economic conditions were quickly shelved, with an estimated 10 million shoppers believed to have spent about £2.9bn.
I'm getting ready for the New Year Resolution effort. What shall I resolve?
Taking a look at the week just gone – could it be described as 'typical' – I'm hoping to get some pointers.
Monday December 17
One of the time management things working in the UK and with colleagues on the US East and West Coast is handling the fact that 5:00 pm UK – normally construed as end of the working day, is 9:00 am US west coast – normally construed as the beginning of the work day. So I can easily do two days back to back in one day, as it were. How about resolving not to do two back to back days? Do I really want to take a phone call walking in pouring rain back from the station at 10:00 pm on the merits of using business intelligence/research in responding to an RFP? I have to recall from memory the PowerPoint I constructed on this as, fortunately, I have not yet got software that projects onto my retina a visual image of a PowerPoint as I am walking along. I think this is coming though.
Tuesday December 18
Well today I got up at my usual time, 5:30 am, and headed for the station. I could resolve not to travel on commuter trains, or within standard commuting hours. Oxford to Paddington requires speed to land a seat in the rush hour. It's impossible to get a seat on the Underground. Standing, it's not easy to respond to the overnight West Coast emails in a crush of people as one-fingered BlackBerry typing is laborious. Nor can I log on to finish the important document I started the evening before.
Last week I wrote about Pumpkin Cafe's decision making around whether or not to warm my scone. A trivial decision in the greater scheme of things, but on the basis that small things count I'll tell you a story of superb customer service from a cafe in Baltimore that I visited last Monday. (I'm traveling a lot right now).
This time I wanted a wholewheat bagel toasted with peanut butter. I went into a coffee shop that said it had bagels and asked for what I wanted. They had the wholewheat bagel but didn't do peanut butter. I bought the bagel anyway. Walking on, I passed another coffee shop David and Dad's that said it had bagels. I went in and ordered a wholewheat bagel toasted with peanut butter. Their response? They didn't have any wholewheat bagels left. I said I had a wholewheat bagel with me and would they be willing to toast it and put their peanut butter on it. "Of course. No problem," came the response. Good stuff - I handed over the bagel I'd just bought in the previous shop. So then the pricing decision had to be made. Two servers conferred and decided they would charge me half the full price I would have paid for my order. No manager involved to this point.
I've been working with an organization, like many others, that wants to improve its decision making processes. Employees are saying things like:
'There's a lack of understanding around decision criteria. We have a tendency to push decisions up and over-bureaucratize. Currently the senior leaders make most of the decisions, but their role should be more about direction setting, and then setting people up to succeed. They need to step back. There's no definition on what decisions should be made at what level. People ask whether a decision is in their remit. There are too many decision points.'
For them, an improved process would:
- Make it quicker and easier to make decisions whilst maintaining the right level of controls.
- Create an organization that is more customer focused, market alert and fast on its feet
- Give staff the mandate and confidence to make decisions at their level without unnecessary referring up
Probing a bit more on this reveals that what people mean by 'decisions' varies from the high level strategic things like 'Shall we buy this business?' to the day to day operational decisions that frontline staff need to make in their interactions with customers. I had an interesting one of the latter the other day at Doncaster Station in the Pumpkin café there.
This week I've been working on a project that is going to involve use of SharePoint as a 'home room' for team members. At least that is the theory.
SharePoint's website promises that 'Microsoft SharePoint 2010 makes it easier for people to work together. Using SharePoint 2010, your people can set up Web sites to share information with others, manage documents from start to finish, and publish reports to help everyone make better decisions.'
I'm not usually defeatist but the very mention of SharePoint and I immediately thought oh no not another platform for losing stuff on, practicing endless misfiling protocols, confusing organizational newcomers, and ensuring hours of wasted time and frustration searching for something that people know is on there 'somewhere'.
I know I've used earlier versions of SharePoint in various jobs in my recent history but they always seem to have the same trajectory – it resembles the normal change curve that everyone is familiar with, but just in case you're not it runs like this.
The creative non-fiction writing course I'm following over breakfast each morning is teaching me about character, conflict, and the narrative arc. I'm wondering how I can apply these techniques to my writing of the second edition of my first book Organization Design: the Collaborative Approach in order to give the new version "a compelling sense of momentum that carries the reader toward the conclusion."
On the face of it things look good. Organization design seems to have all the elements for momentum. That is, "strong characters who experience challenges and conflicts and undergo changes as a result." After all isn't this the story of organization design consulting and any organization design project? But how do I write the story in a way that doesn't breach Non-Disclosure Agreements, and somehow transforms the CIPDs HR Profession Map, Organization Design Competences from a series of uninspiring statements like "Leads systematic processes to manage job sizing and levelling, ensuring appropriate governance is in place to maintain the integrity of the grade structure," into vivid prose that captivates the reader?
I just re-read a previous blog I'd written on organizational diagnosis (July 2010) It was right for now as I'm currently in the middle of three different organizational assessments. This is what some people call the 'discovery' phase when I'm finding out what I think I need to know about the organization in order to make some judgment on what course(s) of action to suggest or recommend.
As I said in last week's blog I am working with three clients in this assessment phase. I always enjoy this part of the design activity because I get to meet all kinds of people each with their own perspective on the same situation. Each of the three cases has taken a somewhat different approach in this phase – so as I always say on my organization design training courses 'there is no right way'.
The interesting thing about the assessment phases is making sense of the data. What do you do with a set of interview notes, or a mix of interview notes and survey data, or a mix of 1:1 notes and group discussion notes? How do you find the themes and patterns that make for a good diagnosis and a useful set of recommendations?
Frequently I'm asked how to set up an organization design project: who needs to be involved, what are the skills they need, and how much time/effort of participants will be involved? This is rather difficult to estimate in advance of knowing something about the project although I've worked on several proposals where we have had to submit complete 'Work Breakdown Structures' with time and staffing estimates several years in advance of any projected work happening.
In one case I remember I was asked how many change management workshops I would facilitate two years out and what would be the content of each. I said this was an impossible question to answer without having started the work and getting to know the context at which point I would design workshops appropriately. This answer was unacceptable.
However, whenever possible, and for the most part, I work as follows:
Pre-proposal: Usually, I am working with the CEO or COO or other leadership team member (at organization or BU level) to gain an insight into the context, what the purpose of the design is, and the rough scope of it. This person may turn out to be 'the client' as the project gathers life, or may turn out to be 'the sponsor', or sometimes he/she may bow out and hand over the project to some other nominated client and/or sponsor.
I explain to prospective clients that I work on a project in phases (though in practice it inevitably turns out to be more chaotic than a linear arrowed sequence moving smoothly from left to right as illustrated in a proposal graphic). Additionally I take the view that organization design is a collaborative, participative venture that must involve employees and other stakeholders. Over the years I've come to the view that the more senior someone is the less likely they are to know about the granular day to day operation of the organization and it is important to have this for a good design result. (Maybe I'm jaundiced, but I'll just casually mention the now outgoing Director General of the BBC, George Entwistle).
I was speaking at the IFMA conference on Friday on change and communication. As my co-presenter, Al DePlazaola, noted, organizations spend 'shedloads' (new UK terminology I just bumped into) of time and money operating under the assumption that change can be managed. He showed pages of various 'change management' frameworks and models – look at the selection on Google Images and you'll get the idea.
We feel that none of these work. Our contention is that preparing a game plan, identifying the "burning platform" (we must change or else!) and following a prescriptive, model based, "10 step" plan, or similar, to bring employees along is not the way to go as the reality is that if your platform is burning, it's probably already too late.
These standard approaches to 'change management' developed in slower moving environments are not appropriate now. Our current environment is fast, fast, fast. People expect rapid digital communication, from answering email within seconds to dealing with tweets (in a nano-second). Not only that, as Ian Sanders notes in his FT article Think First Tweet Later people are likely to be getting these communications and responding to them as they are walking down the street or standing in the queue at the coffee shop. Change is happening too quickly to ponderously 'manage' it.
Various factors converged during the week to prompt my thinking on mentoring Millennials – an age group of the population roughly defined as those being born around 1980. The RSA Journal that I get had three articles on this generation in one copy:
- Restless, bylined with, "Owen Jones writes that highly creative but deeply frustrated, young people today have the potential to make or break our society's future."
- Portrait of a Generation which notes that 'fourteen years ago, a UK-wide survey identified self-determination and entrepreneurial ambition as the core characteristics of the so-called Millennial Generation. Today, against a much tougher economic backdrop, how do the views of young people compare with those of their predecessors?'
- A Time for Heroes reports that "What begins to emerge is a picture of a [Millennial] generation that is more comfortable with taking risks and whose appetite for enterprise is both driven and hampered by economic circumstance. Through research, engagement and practical innovation, the RSA's project seeks to understand how we can harness and enhance this promise and capabilities and the contribution they will make to pulling us out of the current crisis. As Tapscott argues, unless we understand the Net Geners, we cannot begin to understand the future or how they can shape our world."
Then as I was preparing for my IFMA
talk next week on communicating change I came across a three minute video
from the Advisory Group on leadership in times of flux. Suggesting that leaders need much the sort of skills that Millenninials tend to have.
This week a consultant sent me an email with some questions on organizational structures (aka what you see on as an organization chart). And a line manager from another organization sent different questions but on the same topic. This sparked in me the idea of answering the 10 common FAQs I get about structures – so here they are with some answers. Feel free to challenge, add, comment on.
1 What are the emerging organizational structures?
Various structures are emerging both in theoretical literature and in application. These include network structures, formal versus informal organizing structures, state capitalist structures , open source structures, (see The Rise of State Capitalism), and co-operatives (not new but gaining ground).
2 What are the models, theories and concepts that underpin these emerging structures from a technical/operational perspective?
These tend to come out of organization theory, social science, social psychology, behavioural science and economics. Theorists in the field include:
Siobhan O'Mahony from Boston University and Fabrizio Ferraro from IESE Business School (University of Navarra) have individually and together investigated, as Ferraro explains, "the emergence of novel institutions, such as Open Source Software, Sustainability Reporting and Responsible Investing, the evolution of global corporate networks and architectural changes in industries."
The first edition my book Organization Design: the Collaborative Approach was published in 2004. I've now started writing the second edition that will come out in summer 2013 (assuming I write to schedule). I find it staggering to look back and see how much has changed in a bare eight years, and from what I see the changes are continuing apace and they all have a significant impact on the way organizations function. Changes I've noted so far include:
1. Accelerating swift and wide-ranging information and communication technology (ICT) changes that are impacting organizations. Since 2004 social media has burst upon the scene, cloud computing has become the norm, and business intelligence software is getting increasingly sophisticated. All these have huge impact on the traditional organization of enterprises.
2. Increasing requirements for 'sustainability' including carbon footprint savings, 'greening' the enterprise and so on. This again requires looking at the way work is done through a new lens.
3. Intensifying demands, brought about by fiscal and political conditions, to do more for less – smarter, more efficiently, more effectively. Just look at the impact the financial crisis of 2007 - 2009 had on governments. Worldwide they were and continue to be faced with the challenge of offering better citizen services with vastly reduced budgets. No organization can keep pace with this type of demand without looking at its design.
As I've written about in a previous blog I'm speaking at a TEDX conference soon. So my eye was caught by an article in the Financial Times I was reading while sitting on the flight back to DC this week. It was called 'Life After Ted'. It's mainly about Richard Saul Wurman who first hosted a Ted conference in 1984 and in 2001 sold to the concept to the Sapling Foundation which now runs the events. The article reports that the TED events have 'developed a cult status' and 'TED Talks, a series of lecture videos posted online, have received more than 800m views to date.'
Wurman is of the view that as far as TED goes 'Now every speech is auditioned, rehearsed, edited, rehearsed again ... the spontaneity has gone. TED today has become over-orchestrated, too 'slick'." His antidote to this is to put on WWW 'an exercise in improvisation through conversation'.
A couple of people I've talked to about TED (and the various TEDXs) share similar views – that it's a good concept that has peaked. The article notes that 'TED is running out of speakers to invite and, therefore, running out of big ideas'. It has now 'resorted' to auditions to identify speakers for future events. The article also mentions the paucity – although, for the WWW event - of women speakers, and I recall that one of the reasons I was invited to the TEDX Columbus was because they needed more women speakers. So I had a go at checking out the TED ratio of women to men speakers.
Last week I was in Shanghai teaching organization design to thirty people from various national and international companies. It was an amazingly interesting workshop – I learned so much and have come back with a raft of questions to answer on approaches to organization design. Several of them are complex and very worthwhile to answer but I'm still thinking about them.
One of them is somewhat less complex but no less worthwhile to answer. It's about getting and maintaining what in the jargon is called 'business savvy'. Why were the Shanghai participants in the organization design program interested in this? Because they felt that that HR people there (in China) are not thought of as 'business' people but as 'people' people. These HR practitioners wanted to know how they could develop their own skills so that they can have credible, forward thinking business conversations with their colleagues who are running the organizations and managing the business of it.
They want to move on from the notion that all they do is recruit , train, pay people, and make sure that the organization complies with employment law. They want to be trusted as business advisors skilled at developing business growth, profitability and performance through careful attention to the 'people asset.'
Last week I wrote about the TEDx talk that I've been invited to give. And this week I've been pursuing the topic, reading many articles and research papers. As I sort, order, and mull over these and the approach I should take with the intention of arriving at a cohesive, off the cuff sounding, funny talk that fulfills the TEDx requirements I wish I'd done the improv course that since I had a half-day taster session (years ago) I keep telling myself I should do.
So far, what all this delving into the future of work has revealed is rather a lot of what might be kindly termed hot air. I'm reminded of the tarot card reading I once had where the reader advised me to take more notice of coincidences. It's an intriguing notion that comes to mind each time I'm in a 'coincidence situation' but it doesn't go anywhere. The future of work is the same as it's almost non-actionable. I can only go 'oh' or 'gosh' when, for example, I read from the World Future Society
The end of identity as we know it? It may become very easy to create a new identity (or many identities) for ourselves. All we will have to do is create new avatars in virtual reality. Those avatars will act on our behalf in real life to conduct such high-level tasks as performing intensive research, posting blog entries and Facebook updates, and managing businesses. The lines between ourselves and our virtual other selves will blur, to the point where most of us will, in essence, have multiple personalities.
Building employee trust is something that many organizations say they want to do. A leader will say something like 'I want to build a culture of trust'. This sort of statement makes me curious and I tend to follow up such a statement with a series of questions: What do you mean by trust? What outcome would you expect to see in a 'culture of trust' that you don't have currently? What do you think 'trust' would feel like in your day to day operation if you were able to build it? And so on.
In my experience 'trust' is one of those often ill-defined concepts that people intuitively feel would improve organizational performance. They believe it is within the standard remit of an organization development consultant to help with building trust. And they wonder if it could (perhaps) be designed into the organization.
In some respect their intuition is correct. There's a certain amount of evidence that people are more productive and motivated if they are treated respectfully, honestly, and fairly by their supervisors, and have an open and supportive relationships with both supervisors and colleagues. Leader member exchange theory is one that supports this perspective. (See Leader-Member Exchange Theory and Research: Accomplishments and Future Challenges, Leadership August, 2006 2: 295-316). These concepts of fair treatment and so on are close to some of the many definitions and expressions of trust.
At long last a 10 hour flight gave me the time to get out Nicolay Worren's book, Organisation Design: Redefining Complex Systems, and read it from cover to cover. He'd sent it to me a couple of months ago asking me to review it and on the mistaken assumption that I'd have the discipline to turn off my laptop and read a book I'd agreed. My technique to ensure this finally happened was to pack my laptop in my checked baggage, hoping it would arrive (which it did).
The book is well worth reading and, as I discovered, although it is a 'build' i.e. it would be better to read it from start to finish than to dip into it Nicolay has organized it so that the time constrained people can get good insights from the beginning and end of each chapter.
Each chapter opens with a brief bullet list overview giving background, challenges, the chapter's key question, a proposed approach to answering the question. And each ends with a conclusion (sometimes headed instead 'summary and discussion' or 'discussion and conclusion'), the framework he has presented during the chapter for answering the key question, some review questions, some research questions, notes, case study and the references.
HRM systems and processes are a significant part of enabling an organization to achieve a successful IPO. Not just pre-IPO but also post. But what I've found in my looking into this topic over the last couple of weeks is that there isn't much in the way of useful, practical information to draw on and tracking it down has been time consuming. However, some of what I've turned up has been useful and interesting so collected here is a small selection of the stuff that I've found most helpful in preparing the report I was writing.
I located a 1999 research article by Theresa Welbourne and Linda Cyr called The Human Resource Executive Effect in Initial Public Offering Firms that is available through Cornell's Digital Commons. Although it is 13 years since it was written it proved an excellent start point as the researchers
"By applying organizational inertia concepts, studied whether having a senior HRM executive, reporting to the CEO, affects firm performance in a sample of initial public offering (IPO) firms. Results indicate that smaller and fast-growth IPOs experience the most gain from having a senior human resource executive."
The company I am working with does not have a senior HR executive but is thinking about recruiting one so I contacted Dr Welbourne who is now at the Center for Effective Organizations to find out if she is still pursuing this line of research and the answer is yes.
Last week I mentioned an interview with Ivor Southwood. In it he brought up the notion of workplaces as 'non-places' which, as I started to think about that, and look around the places I was in, became an intriguing idea to explore further. In the interview Southwood says that:
"Non-places is a term I came across in a book by the anthropologist Mark Augé. He was talking about transitional places, in particular places like airports, supermarkets, and motorways, etc. These, I suppose, are part of the architecture of neoliberal capitalism, in that they seem frictionless although, of course, they aren't. People with long commutes to work, for example, are always coming across glitches.
We're spending more and more time in 'non-places'. People are commuting for longer and longer times. What kind of time is that? It's sort of non-time, in a way. It's time in a non-place. What can you actually do? Who are you with? You're not with your colleagues or with your friends. You're on your own with passengers who are not talking to each other. Non-places are places of solitude and also places where your identity is suspended."
Another aspect of non-places is amnesia. They kind of resist remembering. That possibly applies to a lot of work now. You finish one assignment and then you erase it and go on to the next one."
As happens once something interesting comes my way then there seem to be several more supporting or similar things. There's a particular phrase on this 'reticular activation', which points to the phenomenon that it's brain activity (by the reticular activating system) and not happenstance that leads to being alerted and suddenly paying attention to what is already there. In normal circumstances according to a Sherlock Holmes aphorism 'You see but you do not observe'. Once alerted, in my experience, the observation follows.
The things that formed a pattern this week are all to do with work and power. In the first instance it was actual electrical power. Washington DC, where I live, and several adjacent states suffered a severe storm on Friday June 29 that resulted in a power cut (outage) including, for some, cut off of internet and phone connections. I was out of the country at the time so unaffected but now I am back and traveling down to visit a friend in Southern Virginia who today, July 8, still has no power or water and very intermittent phone and internet. (The water is pumped from a well).
Hearing this I started to think about how most knowledge work cannot get done without access to electrical power or internet availability. A friend told me a story of how when the internet went down in her house one evening at 9:00 p.m. the five residents (who were all on their individual laptops at the time) decided that there was nothing else to do but go to bed.
I've been doing a piece of work where the question of generational differences has come up a few times. There's a feeling that each generation is very different and there are stereotypes being generated of Gen X, Gen Y, Millennials, and Baby Boomers and time periods which mark the start of that generation.
This isn't the right moment for me to talk about why I think the whole generational thing that stereotypes like this tend to solidify in people's minds is overblown, and makes a lot of money for consultants. I've met many older people who are totally computer and social media literate, entrepreneurial, and happy mobile workers, and many younger ones who've got very limited computer skills, no spirit of get up and go, and want a manager who will tell them what to do. But I am happy to say that I think different people whatever their age have different responses to work, the workplace, management style, career progression and so on.
So I was amused this week when I got several articles about aging into my email box. I can't remember now (is it because I am one of those referred to as 'senior') whether someone sent me an article which I forwarded to someone and he/she sent me one in return, or whether getting several is happenstance, or whether a report on aging has triggered journalists to all weigh in on the topic. Of course, it could be any combination of these plus other things. Van Morrison's phrase springs to mind 'There ain't know why there just is.' And now I'm wondering how old Van Morrison is.
Each week brings a whole host of new stuff that I can incorporate into my work. Hardly any of it comes from a formal learning environment like a course, or webinar, most of it comes from chatting with people who then say 'have you read this?', or 'you might be interested in this', or 'give this a go'. So my Amazon wish list (for books) gets longer each week, my toolbox of things to use on client assignments gets bigger, my list of movies (films) to watch grows, and the You Tube things people suggest make me realize if I did no work whatsoever and simply worked through what people suggested I still wouldn't be able to cope with the flood of new info. This week was no exception, so here's what I've added.
Problem seeking: an architectural programming primer, by William Pena with Steven Parshall and Kevin Kelly. Someone lent me the third edition (1987) but I see it is now in a fifth edition. I got this recommendation when I was sitting with a bunch of architects and asked why every meeting I went to with them they seized 23 x 14 cm cards with a grid on one side and plain on the other. They don't seem able to have a meeting without these cards. But I learned that they originate from a problem seeking methodology (outlined in the book). They are kind of a pre-post note method of putting ideas down and then being able to re-arrange them. I haven't started to use the cards yet as I'm still reading the 'how to', but maybe when and if I do I will be fully oriented to working with architects and designers. This is one I am now three-quarters of the way through and have ordered version 5 to have a copy myself
Between May 27 and June 10 (today) I've been in various cities: New York, Oxford, Brussels, Paris, Los Angeles, and today Chicago. I've been in Union Station (Washington DC), Penn Station (NY), Newark Airport, London Airport, Brussels Airport, a coach to Paris, the Dover-Calais ferry, Eurostar, Gare du Nord, St Pancras Station, and Oxford Station, LA Airport, Chicago Airport. I've been in several different hotel lobbies and public areas and countless cafes and restaurants.
I'm not writing this list to illustrate my current insane nomadic life but to ask a question. Why in all these places I am forced to listen to one or all of piped music, television broadcasts, and public service announcements? This noise is competing with people talking to each other (conversational pitch), on their cell phones (extra loud 'phone voices'), EMS and police sirens, traffic noise, additional noise from repair or construction work sites, and street buskers.
I have a particular fury with piped music which seems to be everywhere except the quiet coach of the Amtrak, the Eurostar, and an aircraft once it has taken off. The effect of having to shout my coffee order to a barista because she cannot hear above the music has now led me to write my regular order on a card and hand it to my server.
Sitting in a meeting on redesigning some government office space other day I tried to make sense of a number of phrases which, I'm assuming, are common in the world I am learning to inhabit. So, I heard block and stack, density ratios, lift and shift, fit factor (not physical fitness of people), finishings, and then various things about HVAC systems, fan coils and so on. We meeting participants all looked at floor plans of office layouts with 'innovation hubs', 'huddle rooms', and other space descriptors.
What I did not hear was anything about the people (not just the numbers of them) who are going to work in the space, the work they will do, the technology they will use, and the adaptations to business processes the move opportunity offers that could result in a transformed business: on that offers higher value for less cost than currently. This seems to me a missed opportunity. Surely organizations should be as aware of the indirect costs and opportunities of moving employees to a new or refurbished office or other workplace as they are of the direct costs and opportunities of the physical bricks, finishings, and furnishings?
If organizational leaders took a holistic, strategic and integrated approach to workplace design: an approach that included consideration of business processes, people's modes of working together, and better use of available technology. The end result would deliver much more than what is implied in the 'lift and shift' approach.
Running a session this week on organization design led to the participant group raising questions and then discussing the differences and similarities between workplace design, workplace strategy, workplace design strategy, and organization design.
There was no real conclusion except that semantics matter, and in order not to confuse our clients and ourselves we need to clarify the terms, or stick with one agreed short description that covers the range.
Attempting to clarify this for myself I found an article by Eric Olsen, Workplace Design Strategy: An Alternative View. In this he compares Galbraith's Five Star model with Hurst's soft bubble model. He does this in the context of discussing a paper, Solving the Right Problem: A Strategic Approach to Designing Today's Workplace, written by Arnold Craig Levin in the Spring 2007 issue of the Design Management Review.
Levin's paper builds on a previous one he published Changing the role of workplace design within the business organisation: A model for linking workplace design solutions to business strategies published in the Journal of Facilities Management in 2005. In the abstract Levin notes that:
Somewhere along the line I got the phrase 'All models are wrong. Some models are useful.' This has come to top of mind during the week when models of all types have entered my consciousness. This week I've been walking round a full size cardboard mock-up of new office space and furniture that the intended occupants are walking around and through, making comments on its viability and suggesting improvements. It's great fun seeing the ease with which the cardboard can be picked up and re-sited with no difficulty. Cardboard boxes piled one on top of the other represent standing work stations, and flip chart paper the computer monitor. Intended occupants are assessing light levels, asking questions about noise, and so on.
This exercise was followed by a trip to an office furniture showroom where the same people now experienced the type of furniture that would go in the spaces. So where we had the cardboard mock-up of six people sitting at what is called benching (essentially akin to a long rectangular dining table that in the café chain, Le Pain Quotidien, is called 'our communal table' and has a little spiel associated with it ) in the office showrooms we went to they were sitting at the real thing and thoroughly enjoying it. But again the showrooms are just a model. We don't know what the real thing will actually be like, and that's where the phrase sprang to mind, because people are fearful that the model is useful in theory but could be wrong in practice.
At the Organization Design Forum Conference in Atlanta earlier in the week Shoshana Zuboff, the now retired Charles Edward Wilson Professor of Business Administration, at Harvard Business School was the hit of the event. Unfortunately I missed her as I was traveling but I took a look at a couple of You Tube clips of her talking. Her seven minutes on design flaws in organizational structure resonated.
She talks of 'chapters of capitalism' and asks how we realign our commercial operations with new needs. Which she suggests is very difficult. I guess much of her video clip is drawn from her book The Support Economy: Why Corporations Are Failing Individuals and the Next Episode of Capitalism as she proposes a new chapter of capitalism based on serving the new needs of customers that are grounded in personal empowerment and expression. I haven't read the book yet – although when I went to put in on my Amazon wish list after the conference I discovered that it was already on my list. 'Amazon' politely told me that since I was trying to put it on my list again it would move it to the top. I've now ordered the book from my local library.
This past week has been about system conversions. In any design project they are fraught with difficulty. They've been brought to my attention in four different circumstances this week, two business and two personal:
a) The merger of United and Continental airlines
b) The trusted traveler program
c) The collapse of my personal laptop
d) My leaving one job to start another in a different organization.
First the merger of United and Continental: I fly United a lot and was interested to see how they would handle the merger with Continental when it was announced a couple of years ago. The main way I've experienced it is through their frequent flier program. So late last year I got a mailing saying my card that was due to expire in January, would be valid until the end of March. This mailing was sent to a prior address but it finally got to me. I checked to confirm that I had, in fact, changed the address in my passenger profile, which I had, so I don't know how that happened but put it down to merger glitches.
I liked the way that with this announcement came a little gold sticker, saying "valid until the end of March" that came with the instruction to stick it on the frequent flier card. I imagined a bunch of people trying to work out what the best method was of getting to this solution and wondered how much the gold stickers cost. What was the rationale for them? Couldn't they have instructed everyone that all cards expiring January 2012 would be valid till end March and saved on the stickers?
This past week various threads have come together that weave into a mouse-mat sized tapestry on one aspect of self-design or re design. During the week a friend sent me the link two TEDx talks by Brene Brown. One is on shame and one is on vulnerability. Brown 'studies human connection - our ability to empathize, belong, love.' In the talks she poses the questions: How do we learn to embrace our vulnerabilities and imperfections so that we can engage in our lives from a place of authenticity and worthiness? How do we cultivate the courage, compassion, and connection that we need to recognize that we are enough – that we are worthy of love, belonging, and joy?' Each talk is 20 minutes and worth the time investment.
This past week I've been continuing with researching and writing chapter eight of my forthcoming book. As I said last week, it's on management fads and fashions, and it's been an interesting foray into my prejudices and experiences, the academic theory on the topic, and the popular writing about fads.
At this point I'm pondering all the information and trying to get it into a manageable format that will engage readers. Malcolm Gladwell, author of The Tipping Point, all about 'that magic moment when an idea, trend, or social behavior crosses a threshold, tips, and spreads like wildfire' has the engagement factor down pat. I started to re-read bits of his book, looking for the nuggets that I remembered from my first reading of it. Of course, that rather side-tracked me as I drifted off into remembering my own teenage years consorting with people wearing Hush Puppies (one of the fads he discusses) the first time they were a fashion fad.
This week I got this question: "I wondered if you know, or have seen on your travels any great examples of specific organization structures for Innovation Labs?" The writer goes on, "In our view this is a specific environment where people are brought in to innovate the way in which we produce and sell our products and services. This will be separate to the business and will involve some new hires and some employees rotated out of the business. Have you seen any principles on structures to facilitate innovation?"
What's interesting about this is that current thinking appears to converge around the notion that innovation is best developed through business ecosystems. That is a form of intentional development of communities of economic co-ordination where multiple parties join forces to "coordinate innovation across complementary contributions arising within multiple markets and hierarchies," from this, if things go well, the business ecosystems co-evolve and adapt to continuously changing contexts. You can read more about this aspect in James F. Moore's paper Business ecosystems and the view from the firm.
This week I got an email from someone who says "I have been asked to put together the business case for going down the organization design route to solving a number of organizational issues. The problem is that the executive team does not see that the organization design process is the best way to get them from current to future state because they think they can just write down the work priorities for their areas on the back of an envelope and then decide what to stop doing etc."
She then lists the organizational issues the group has identified need addressing:
• Approaching service delivery differently (but not specifying what or how)
• Making more effective use of our tightening resources
• Smoothing out the patchiness, peaks and troughs in workloads across the organisation
• Ensuring that we are not just driving financial change but also culture and values change
• Supporting the executives in spending time on the strategic things and not the lower level work
• Putting more focus on managing the business and how this impacts staff
• Developing wider, cross-organization thinking so that fewer things slip through the net
I am frequently asked for help in recommending resources. Here are two requests that I got this week "I am interested in the parallels/similarities/differences between architectural and organisation design principles: could you recommend any references that address both, please?" and "We are collecting some useful tools on OD, talent management, leadership development and other HR related topics. Are there any tool websites you can recommend?"
I am fortunate in one respect that my three career tracks of consulting, academic work, and writing, keep me constantly on the hunt for materials of various kinds. Looking back at my Google history for last week I find I looked at websites that offered: tools, books, articles, survey instruments, games, activities, methodologies, videos, comment and opinion, and news. I haven't yet cracked how to organize all this stuff in a way that makes for easy retrieval. I have various classification systems going simultaneously, rather than a master one that might make life simpler:
• My 'favorites' website listing with a rather random list of folders - what, wonder now, was in my thinking when, for example, I set up a folder 'learning', and another 'development'. I haven't had time yet to go through and consolidate/rationalize and consequently have to look in both for something I know I put somewhere.
• My two Dropboxes which have slightly different folder titles, but essentially for the same type of thing.
• With both Dropboxes I have an 'articles' catch all with folders in it - again somewhat different, but I have to remember that I've taken all the organization design articles out of the articles folder and got them in a separate folder in the high level list. On more than one occasion my heart has lurched when I think that Dropbox has deleted my organization design articles folder that I know I have in 'articles'!
• My Amazon wish lists - both public and private ones that house all the books I wishfully think I'm going to read. The lists relate to my book titles rather than the specific topic so if I'm looking for a book I know I put on a wish list I have to remember which book I was writing at the time I listed the book I'm looking for!
Writing my new book on organizational health has made me even more aware of the parallels between organizational and individual health. So when I saw the documentary Forks over Knives which is about eating a completely plant based diet in order to avoid, as far as possible common chronic and degenerative diseases including diabetes, heart disease, cancer and strokes, I wondered whether some of the common 'diets' of organizations - increasing shareholder value, looking at short-term quarterly results, revering charismatic leaders, kneeling at the feet of management gurus, and so on - which lead to taking short cuts, ethical misdemeanors, jaded management, vast expenditure on not very much, and other chronic organizational diseases (ok I'm wildly oversimplifying) could be reversed by something equivalent to a plant based diet.
My first thought on the plant based diet was that it was fine for food savvy people who'd seen the documentary, read Michael Pollan's books, who could afford fresh fruits and vegetables, and who had access to sources of this type of food. I wondered how the mass of people who suffer from 'food insecurity' - a euphemism for 'not enough money to buy food' used here - would fare. It seems that they are the ones most likely to go for the cheap and easily available fast food options that offer none of the benefits of a plant based diet. I emailed Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn, one of the documentary's key presenters on this topic and got a very nice reply with some helpful hints.
Many organizations are in the throes of supporting people as they transition from current ways of working to new ways of working. For many people the new ways of working are radically different. Among other changes they are moving from
- Own desk/office space that is assigned to them to shared space, perhaps desk sharing or hoteling
- Roaming or teleworking from the assigned space to roaming or teleworking from unassigned space
- People having private offices based on position in hierarchy to people having enclosed work space based on job function.
- Traditional one-for-one space assignment to neighborhoods or zones with fluid boundaries
In making this cultural and working practices shift people tend to concentrate on space planning and work practices and processes. But there is another factor around the cultural change that is worth investigating.
Imagine a look alike Las Vegas casino but in Johannesburg. Now imagine around 70 organization design consultants sitting in there in one of the artificially lit hotel conference rooms working through an eclectic program of presentations, exercises, flag twirling, journey mapping, world café, and other things beloved by 'interventionists'. I was one of the 70 at the New Africa Organization Design Forum Summit there. My task was to talk about the myths of organization design. At points I found myself asking myself 'am I seriously part of this community?' this question perhaps brought on by the ODD sessions. I finally worked out that ODD was an acronym (organization design and development) and not intended to be a descriptor so clearly I was confused there, but maybe not.
The program veered from the sedate, and the 'I've heard this a thousand times before', to the wacky in unpredictable sequence, each session with its own specific language and vocabulary that required a jargon buster (unfortunately not provided). Similarly it veered from participants being seated and listening attentively to a presenter with power points to scrabbling on the floor picking up the bones and beans that John Ballam sowed amongst us in his superb method of shaking us out of our known worlds of 'adaptive systems', 'holistic thinking' 'new paradigms', 'mental models', and so on leading us towards 'shamanism', 'healing', 'energy fields', 'the consistency of the unseen', and 'fractals'. His mix of theatre and chaos theory started with his own chanting, dancing and sowing and finished with all participants doing a short stomp dance with pelvic wiggles. (Odd or not? Form your own views).
I've been thinking about business models this week - what makes it easier or more difficult for companies to change or adjustment their model at regular intervals? Failure to do that has significant consequences as AT & T, a US telecoms company, found out. Originally established in 1885, in 2005 it was bought by SBC for around $16 billion. SBC was one of the 'baby bells' that was spun out of the company, known as 'Ma Bell,' as part of a 1984 court-ordered break-up.
The failure, at the time, of leaders of AT & T to change its business model in order to take advantage of new technologies such as wireless and internet were cited as reasons for the takeover. But they are not alone in this failure as Clayton Christensen, of Harvard Business School, and author of several books on innovation said on hearing that AT & T been bought. 'It is a tragic fall [for AT & T] and I lament the passing, because it was a huge disruptive success in its day. The world is filled with companies that are marvellously innovative from a technical point of view, but completely unable to innovate on a business model.'
Too frequently in the case of organizational problems arising the first response is to look to the organization chart i.e. names of jobholders in boxes that show a formal reporting relationship between the jobholders.
When people are trying to decide the 'best' structure for their organization they often forget that work has to flow through it, and that different structures have different attributes. For example, that adaptability is poor in a traditional hierarchy but good in a network. Instead structure decisions are made based on personalities, politics, and expediency. This is a mistake on two counts. First, failing to explicitly recognize that structure choices impact organizational capabilities, and second that getting work done efficiently in order to meet organizational goals is, or should be, the purpose of the organizing frameworks and structures.
In my research on organizational health I've been reading Warren Bennis's book Changing Organizations definitely a golden oldie. In it he has a quote from Wilfred Brown, Chairman and Managing Director of Glacier Metal Company (1939-1965) who said 'Optimum organization [forms] must be derived from an analysis of the work to be done and the techniques and resources available.'
This strikes me as eminently sensible, and is a precept I teach in the organization design training programs I facilitate. But it is highlighted by looking through the lens of organization health. Boiling down the many definitions and lists of characteristics that I gathered it seems that four attribute emerge. A healthy organization is one that has:
o Effective performance or functioning
o Well managed adaptation, change and growth
o A strong sense of alignment interdependency and community
o A spirit of energy, vibrancy and vigour, perhaps what the on-line shoe retailer Zappos defines as WOW
I was on a flight last week reading the European Wall Street Journal. The front page (October 31) had a great photomontage showing that
1. Truck maker Scania plans to pare production by as much as 15%, beginning in November.
2. Volvo intends to scale back truck manufacturing next year.
3. PSA Peugeot Citroën plans to suspend production at a plant in Slovakia. The company also said it would lay off 6,000 workers, mostly in France.
4. Liquor maker Diageo restructured its European operation by centralizing certain functions and shifting investment away from Western European markets.
5. Saab Automobile agreed to sell Saab to Chinese companies Pang Da and Zhejiang Youngman for $141.9 million, following a two-year struggle to turn the company around after decades of losses.
On the next page were a further set of news items:
This week I've been traveling and experiencing all kinds of levels of customer service and I've been wondering exactly what customer service is. What is it that I respond to and what makes the interaction between agent and customer a good one? One of the complicating factors is language. I have been with French, German, and Italian native speakers. If you haven't guessed, I am in Switzerland. I can understand French for the most part (lack of practice means I can barely speak it) but the other two languages I have only a hazy grasp of.
So I am delighted, and somewhat chagrined, when nearly all the people I'm in contact with are able to speak English and wondering if my own customer service is lacking because I don't speak their language. 90% of the interactions I am having are with hotel staff, café or restaurant staff, shop assistants, and bus drivers. The other 10% are with fellow guests, shoppers, and travelers.
Beyond any move logistics - which are critically important to get right - other conscious choices and decisions need to be made in preparing people for an office move. Typically before a move, in many real estate moves or office space redesigns we ask people to complete a survey on work style (are they deskbound, etc.). Then we gather 'requirements' on what they'll need in the new space. However, there is a tension here. People will base requirements on what they know, or what they are assuming or have heard from others about the new space. What we get from 'requirements' gathering is, for the most part, uninformed by actual experience of working in new space styles and new work ways. People have little ability to make informed choices and decisions on what they don't know or haven't experienced. Addressing that knowledge gap is essential in order to get informed requirements that help us meet any business goals related to real estate and/or carbon footprint reductions combined with business process streamlining and delivering the business strategy.
Howard Schultz joined Starbucks in 1982 as director of retail operations and marketing. He became CEO in 1987 and took the company from 17 stores then to 2,498 in 2000 when he handed the CEO role to Orin Smith and became chairman and chief global strategist. Smith retired in 2005 and Jim Donald became CEO. Two years later, during the depths of the recession Starbucks nearly drowned in its caramel macchiato. After decades of breakneck expansion under Mr. Schultz, tight-fisted consumers abandoned it. The company's sales and share price sank so low that insiders worried Starbucks might become a takeover target. So in 2008, by which point there were 15,001 stores worldwide, Schultz returned to the CEO role with what he called a "transformational agenda" that included wooing back customers, remodeling some stores and closing 900 others (predominantly in the United States), streamlining the supply chain and changing the executive team.
In his several decades of leading Starbucks, he provides a good example of a leader who has demonstrated both healthy and unhealthy leadership attributes.
If you are interested in the topic of organization culture change join the discussion at the Organization Design Forum's Virtual Learning Series webinar I am facilitating on October 4 from 11am - 12:30 pm Eastern Time. The session is designed to be collaborative, seeking participant input and observations to build the story of culture and design. Get more details by clicking here.
The session discusses the notion that when competitive and other contextual forces require a change in business strategy, business leaders usually turn to organization design for changes in structure and work process. As the power of organizational culture in strategy achievement has become clearer, many business leaders are making "culture change" a priority of organization design, often because they see the organizational culture as limiting what they want to achieve.
I wake up from a bad dream that my daughter is in great difficulty in a dangerous environment. I know she is in Eritrea. I get an email from her that same morning.
I am locked out of my Yahoo account! I am in a bit of a fix. Can you Western Union me some money? We need about $1000 US. I am in the Intercontinental Asmara Palace Hotel.
My first thoughts a) it's a scam -someone has phished her account. b) she's written this message under duress c) the dream was prescient d) what do I do now? I try not to panic.
Instead I look at the Intercontinental website for the Asmara Palace Hotel phone number. They don't have a hotel in Eritrea. I begin to panic. No, no, no, my voice of calm admonishes me. Breathe, stop, think, dreams are only dreams they are not reality.
Ok - I look up Western Union to find out how to send money.
I just started to read A Pattern Language by Christopher Alexander that someone gave me for my birthday. My friend knew I was interested in it because he looked at my Amazon wish list - which made me wonder whether Santa now looks at Amazon wish lists rather than at notes floated up chimneys. The book was on my list because now that I'm moving in architectural circles I find that it's a book frequently mentioned, and I was curious about seeing if Alexander's pattern language of the physical architectural could translate to organizing the work systems, processes, and behaviors that are stuff of the organization design as I define it - "arranging how to do the work necessary to achieve a business purpose and strategy".
Myriad companies traditionally associated with architecture, product design, and facilities layout, are entering the field of organization behavior, organization development, change management, and organization design as I know it - are finding. Tim Brown of IDEO (a global design firm) in his Fast Company article Strategy by Design, notes that "In order to do a better job of developing, communicating, and pursuing a strategy, you need to learn to think like a designer." Helpfully he offers his five-point plan on this:
In my work I'm often having to choose a case study to illustrate points or practice on during workshops. FInding the right case study for a public program or an internal program can be difficult. A client asked for guidance notes on this. So here they are. They're adapted from The Art and Craft of Case Writing, William Naumes and Margaret J Naumes Good sites for buying case studies from are: Harvard Business Review, ecch, and Ivey.
People coming to an organization design program find it helpful to work with real examples and case studies. If participants are all from one organization then consider using a recent case study from their own. But remember there are pros and cons to this - particularly people may have a point of view on how it was handled v how it should have been handled. If you want to base the case on your own organization anther approach is to outline an OD project that is being thought about but not yet initiated. Then people can work with planning how it could be. Below are other points to consider when selecting a case.
What is the best method for presenting the case? Written report, video, slide presentation, webinar? Know why you are choosing this method?
I was asked to compile a 'recipe' for an organization design Subject Matter Expert (SME) the other day. Here it is for you to try out.
What is an SME? It's all too easy to assume a nebulous vision of a guru swanning around giving ad hoc but sage advice to hard-working organization design project team members and then seeing them act on it.
But a workable vision for SME value-add to a project is much harder edged than this. Envision an effective SME. He/she has in-depth, specialist or expert knowledge of a business area, work process, or system functionality. With this goes the ability to transmit and share his/her knowledge to the organization design project team in a way that helps them successfully meet, or even exceed, their goals and objectives.
So, for example, a measurement SME will be able to help the Measurement work team choose specifically, what to measure, why to measure it, and how to measure it.
There are several challenges to the SME role:
a) The SME brief is not clear so he/she doesn't know what the expectations are in terms of contribution and delivery.
b) The project team does not recognize the need for SME support in the tranches (or for a cross-cutting SME for example for change management).
c) The program lead does not have the skills or resources to select SMEs.
d) The team members do not know how or when to ask for SME support and assistance.
e) There is an inadequate match between what the team needs and what the team wants from the SME - are they looking for a trainer, peer-reviewer, approver, knowledge sharer or something else.
f) There is no point of contact for the SME to report or refer to for guidance and updates.
g) SMEs are not perceived as a 'real' contributor and are left off communications and out of meetings that could be relevant.
h) The SME has other organizational roles that take precedence over this one.
For the last two weeks I've been in the UK. My mother, aged 94, is having outpatient hospital treatment which means she has to go to the Churchill Hospital, Oxford each Monday - Friday for three weeks. (Fifteen treatments all told). I go with her. It's a fascinating exercise in trying to guess the organizational design alignment (or not) behind the scenes.
The service is run by South Central Ambulance Service NHS Trust (SCAS) . From their website I learned that they "signed a two-year contract, with NHS Oxfordshire to manage Oxfordshire patients' eligibility for non emergency transport by the ambulance service from 1 June 2010. In April 2010 SCAS undertook 24,053 patient transport journeys. SCAS' Patient Transport Service regularly receives around 4,000 telephone calls a week" And from another NHS Oxfordshire website I found out that:
"The service is free and is provided to enable patients to get to appointments in out patient departments or for minor treatments or investigations. It is available for patients registered within NHS Oxfordshire travelling within the areas of Oxfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire.
The patient transport service costs the NHS in Oxfordshire over £3 million a year and in the last financial year we spent £350,000 of this on patients who were able to use 'walk on' transport. That is patients who could travel by car and need no assistance in getting in and out of a vehicle. We think that we can save as much as £200,000 by tightening up on who can use this service."
On the NHS "Have your say" website members of the public are invited to "Influence change in your local NHS - Tell us what you think about the patient transport service." Good enough so here goes.
Yesterday I arrived in London from Washington DC on United Airlines flight 918. In May 2010 United announced that it was going to buy Continental and at the time the NY Times commented:
"Combining Continental and United would also create a global behemoth. Continental would bring its strong presence in Latin America and Europe, while United has strong positions in Asia, including China and Japan."
Nevertheless in August last year the deal won approval and was completed in October 2010.
I've flown a few times on United since then and been looking for any signs of the acquisition from a passenger standpoint. The first obvious thing is the logo change, and the adverts that assure us that that things are going well. What other things have I noticed?
In my mailbox this week came two similar questions.
The first was about my blog (March 14 2011) Position Management vs. Organization Design. This correspondent asked:
Could you please clarify how you "Identify manpower flows"
What is the rationale for suggesting identifying a possible flow for each scenario - will they be different?
Isn't it an expensive endeavor to identify flows for each possible redesign scenario?
And, what methods do organizations/consultants typically use to do so?
The second person asked "if you come across any linkage or material regarding OD and Strategic workforce planning, let me know. It's the puzzle I can't figure out right now. OD and then SWP or SWP and then OD...or is it a combined process?
The Rollo May quote came to mind this week: "Human freedom involves our capacity to pause between the stimulus and response and, in that pause, to choose the one response toward which we wish to throw our weight. The capacity to create ourselves, based upon this freedom, is inseparable from consciousness or self-awareness. (in The Courage to Create) .
I thought of it because I was on several telephone conference calls where there was little leadership agreement behind the 'one response toward which to throw our weight'. Each leader felt the stimulus and was irritated by having to pause and choose, rather than just take the individual knee-jerk reaction he/she wanted to but when the pause situation was engineered the differences between the team members became evident. With this came the realization that the team had to stop, think, decide more in concert than individually.
When I looked at a report on Project Oxygen, Google's approach to determining how to make more successful managers that someone sent me during the week I noticed that this too had the suggestion of stopping to pause between stimulus and response and also to align an individual's thinking with the wider interests of the organization:
Last week was one of surveys and tests. I'm involved in a review of a telework pilot project involving a survey and also the implementation of a survey on work style and work practices. Plus that week a couple of the dissertation students I am working with are planning their research design which involves selecting a survey instrument and devising methods of using it effectively. Additionally I got an email saying I had to take a mandatory training and pass an end test on this. I found myself doing lots of thinking around getting the most from tests and surveys, and having some interesting discussions on this.
On the telework pilot project we're going to take multiple approaches to data gathering. So we spent a full day working out the time lines, the methods (including: survey, 1:1 interviews, focus groups with randomly selected participants, review of measurement data collected e.g. sickness and absenteeism rates, customer satisfaction scores, etc. and review of the communications strategies and materials) so it will be a labor intensive next few weeks on this. What we're hoping is that we will get information that we can use to develop best practice guides for others who want to introduce or extend teleworking practices.
Last week I was sitting in a 'finish concepts' meeting with a group of architects and designers looking at floor tiles, color swatches for wall coverings, and so on. There were five concepts presented. Each one with an accompanying photo of something from nature - flower, rock, etc - than inspired the concept.
This was all interesting to me as I haven't been in one of those types of meetings before, and it was fascinating to see the way the participants handled the samples, discussed the pros and cons, and went into all kinds of details like how would you join carpeting and tile in a 'designed' way?
What they didn't talk about was what effect the color and finish combinations might have on worker productivity. I was pretty sure I've read articles on that topic and surely in designing office space (as we were) worker productivity and motivation should be part of that discussion.
The Center for Policy on Emerging Technologies here in Washington DC, has been running a series of roundtable discussions on various aspects of technology and innovation. Last week I was one of the panelists at the discussion on policy and innovation.
Since I'm not a policy wonk and nor a technology nerd ("A PolicyWonk is related to the Technology Nerd, but understands people" according to Policywonk.com). I was a bit baffled about how to contribute effectively, however, once I got the email telling me that I was to provide an overview of my point of view, to go in the participant info pack and reminding me that I also had to speak to for ten minutes on this, I knew I had to get my act together.
Several people during the past week have asked me what I see as the organizational trends that are having an impact both on organization designs and on the Human Resource/Organization Development functions.
It's an interesting question that you can look at from a macro/global level, or at a single small organization in a specific market sector or geography. It seems that the people who were asking were more interested in what the macro level trends were that they would then be able to interpret and assess the impact of in their local markets.
But how useful is to know about a macro level trend? Everyone knows that rapidly advancing communication and collaboration technologies are having a major impact on organizational operations, but maybe that macro level statement is too general to be useful. Would it be more helpful to ask "Are there some specific communication and collaboration technologies that are having more of an impact on organizational designs than others". For example, is Twitter more of an organizational game changer than Facebook? Or Google more than Microsoft? Or Cisco's telepresence more than webcams on individual computers?
Question: We are responsible for assisting government offices to design their organizational structure. The process is as follows:
1) Government Ministries/Department draw up their strategic plans
2) Once the plan has been accepted they start working how they need to adjust their organization design to ensure implementation of the plan. Some do Business Process Re-engineering and some don't because it is not a requirement.
3) When the request for structural help come to our Department, we tackle the request by looking at the following elements:
• Unity of command and direction
• Chain of command
• Span of control
• Division of work
We do workflow studies and we use the norms to design positions on the structure.
What is it about traveling that leads to loss of items? I've come to accept as inevitable that when I travel I lose stuff no matter how hard I plan to focus on returning with what I left with, plus with the items that I also seem to inevitably collect as I travel. It's not a zero sum game though, ten business cards does not equate to a pair of gloves, for example.
Once I read that leaving things behind is an unconscious statement that you want to stay in that place. But I don't think I want to stay in seat 64A of the train that goes from London to Newcastle - even if leaving my red scarf in the rack above the seat may imply that.
One thing that seems to contribute to the travel = loss of items is information overload. I'm juggling time zone changes, schedules, itineraries, suitcase, laptop, travel adaptors, documents, and other things in physical surroundings that are unfamiliar. It's hard to establish a routine or a habit when sleeping in four different locations on consecutive nights whilst trying to keep work commitments and the ideal of 'work is what you do, not where you are' giving the seamless customer service people expect when you're not on the road in the same way. Home based travel does not, in my case, lead to loss of items.
In several meetings this week a common problem emerged even though the topics of the meetings were completely different. Briefly they focused on clashes (and crashes) of one kind or another. Take this example:
We are introducing all kinds of software and processes designed to encourage employee collaboration - wikis, Interact, collaborative on-line events (like IBM jams), internal social media, blogs and so on. Simultaneously we are encouraging employees to contribute, make suggestions, participate, speak up and generally feel they have a voice that will be listened to. We're doing this in order to develop innovative and adaptive responses to organizational context changes and become more effective.
But we are not doing enough, for various reasons, to examine or change the formal systems and processes which bind people to legacy norms: linear progression through a multi-level grade system, annual performance appraisals to a set format, career movement within the current 'silo' that the employee is in, and controlling rather than collaborative management style.
Twice last week the work 'Placemaking' came up. So is this a new buzzword and why hadn't I heard it before? OK - some small research confirms that it is definitely not a new buzzword. It's been used by architects and designers since the 1970's. My search for it on Grist "rassled up 265 results." (I think 'rassled' is a new word -yes if the fact that Google couldn't throw up a definition means it is a new word).
But 'placemaking' is new to me because I am not an architect or a designer of physical spaces. It just happens that I am now at a point in my work life when physical design and organizational design are intersecting. Office space is not just within the scope of the facilities manager but within the scope of the employees and organizational designers/developers such as myself.
Last week I tried a megabus trip . It was a kind of comparison test with the Greyhound www.greyhound.com bus trip that I'd recently been on. There were a number of organizational differences in the outbound experience:
• The Greyhound you pickup a physical ticket from the bus station. The megabus operates from a parking lot with no office so you just take your on-line booking reservation number
• The Greyhound bus station is a building with bay numbers with arrivals/departures information and some sense of organization of passengers by destination. The megabus has none of this. Some buses were parked in the DC parking lot but an attempt to ask the drivers where they were heading for was met by a stinging rebuke 'wait till you are called'. In the absence of any information on departures passengers asked each other.
• Both trips started with the bus leaving roughly on time: Greyhound 15 minutes late, megabus 10 minutes late. The megabus has wi-fi and the Greyhound doesn't.
• The Greyhound was full (a second bus had to be laid on) and the megabus had 5 passengers. (It was a new route which may explain that). Both arrived roughly on time.
At this time of any year I notice the word 'reflection' coming into play. People start reflecting on the year past, setting goals for the year coming, and generally developing some kind of internal balance sheet of their efforts.
So this week Joy Costa of the Human Capital Institute makes the point that:
you may be reflecting on how you personally did meeting your goals this year, how your team and department did and how your organization did on this year's big hairy audacious goals. Equally important is reflecting on why, and even more important is drafting the right goals across the board for next year, to confidently predict desired business and personal performance.
Last week I got a reminder from the Organization Design Forum that:
We Are Now Welcoming Proposals for 90 minute Concurrent Sessions for ODF's 2011 Annual Conference! May 9-12, 2011 Austin, Texas - The Omni Hotel "Beyond Structure: Designing for Engagement in the New Normal"
As organizations continue to anticipate, adapt and respond to an uncertain environment, engaging employees and customers through design must take on new approaches, shapes and forms. Both traditional and non-traditional elements of design must be considered as organizations look to the future. This conference will provide the forum for skilled practitioners, academicians and business leaders to learn, discuss, debate and practice the next generation of organization design methodologies.
Criteria and suggestions are in the Call for Presenters form which can be downloaded from our website.
Yesterday someone sent me the following enquiry:
I am on a working group related to disability employment within Birmingham, the aims of the group are about increasing the numbers of people with a disability in employment.
I wondered if either of you have come across any innovative approaches elsewhere in terms of organisation design or such just success stories you might have come across?
If you have could you let me know, am trying to get the group to look boarder than just the UK public sector which is where they are at the moment.
I thought this was fascinating. I'd never really thought of organization design in terms of disability in employment and what it might mean in terms of the four aspects of organization design I'm now tending to juggle with: people, process, organization, and space.
The other week the Real Estate Executive Board ran a webinar 2010 Research Recap: Aligning Corporate Real Estate (CRE) HR and IT. The intro to the session read:
The Board's strategic research for 2010 will help real estate executives align better with HR and IT, and realize a true competitive advantage from their portfolio assets.
In this teleconference learn how the best real estate shops:
• Create a workplace road map that resonates across all three functions, with a focus on mobility and enabling work
• Bridge the gap between disparate metrics and arriving at a dashboard that speaks as effectively to CHROs and CIOs as it does to CRE executives
• Translate workplace best practices into customized solutions and tool kits that business units can get behind and sell
Four things on the same day last week converged on sustainability issues:
• I listened to a podcast The HR Function of the Future given by John Boudreau, Center for Effective Organizations, USC in which one of the questions he asked was "Will HR Connect Values and Culture to Sustainable Strategic Success?"
• Someone sent me some information about SAP's new HQ building that has just received LEED Platinum status.
• I was invited to join a community group "to share ideas and efforts related to sustainable workplace strategies".
• One of the students that I mentor decided last week to focus his dissertation research efforts on service innovations in the utilities sector - specifically related to sustainability.
So what did I learn from these four different slants on sustainability? First I learned that the term 'sustainability' was no being used in the same way, with the same definition, in each of the four instances. That confirmed my opinion that it's a word that is used very loosely. People have very different takes on it and usually do not take the time to clarify what they mean by it.
Someone sent me a link to a Ted talk 'Why work doesn't happen at work'. Jason Fried gives a number of reasons for this - but they boil down to two M & Ms: managers and meetings. He's got a nice image of one's day being shredded as in a Cuisinart by these two M's.
I enjoyed the talk but it didn't get me any closer to answering the question why do 'knowledge workers' need to come to a workplace (beyond the M & Ms). We were discussing this at a meeting on teleworking and office use. We're trying to design a building that people will only need to come to for specific reasons but we're still wrestling with what these reasons might be.
On the flight home yesterday I listened to the podcast of the HBI Idea Cast on Why a Happy Brain Performs Better.
In this guest Guest: Shawn Achor, CEO of Aspirant and author of The Happiness Advantage: The Seven Principles of Positive Psychology That Fuel Success and Performance at Work talks about the principles of thanking people,
It's back to the field of positive psychology that I've talked about in previous posts. The book information tells us that
"Happiness fuels success, not the other way around. When we are positive, our brains become more engaged, creative, motivated, energetic, resilient, and productive at work. This isn't just an empty mantra. This discovery has been repeatedly borne out by rigorous research in psychology and neuroscience, management studies, and the bottom lines of organizations around the globe."
One of the things I get asked a lot is about making organizations flexible and adaptable so that they can weather the forces that assail them from various directions. Looking out of my window this morning at the torrential rain and gusting winds I wondered if the weather would clear for my running training this evening and I consulted the weather forecast. It was accurate. The rain stopped.
It's much more difficult to get any accurate forecast for organizations to plan against but a couple of days ago I got an email from the University of Houston, reminding me that I'd previously shown interest in their Certificate in Strategic Foresight.
Last week I took a road trip by Greyhound bus. Since I'd also taken various other transport trips in the last month (2 different airlines to get me to Shanghai, Amtrak to New York, subways in DC, and Shanghai, buses in DC) the Greyhound experience was just another travel experience to enjoy or endure.
This Greyhound one started off with booking my ticket on-line. That was straightforward enough. Fortunately the day before I read the small print in the acknowledgement email and saw that seats were allocated on a 'first come' basis and if the bus got filled before you got on then you had to wait for the next one. I was traveling on the busiest travel day of the US travel year.
Last week we were running a one day introduction to team based teleworking. It was a pilot program with two teams of staff plus their managers. It was a fun day - opening with an icebreaker using the go ask anyone cards which usually start people off laughing as they discover, for example, what their co-workers answer to a question like "what did you want to be when you grew up?" or "if you could trade places with someone for a week, whom would you choose and why?"
The day was in two parts. The morning of the workshop were focused exclusively on the team, the work it needs to produce and how they think/feel they need to work together when operating remotely.
The afternoon concentrated on the tools and software that most appropriately met the group's needs in terms of their work and the community they want to build, and getting their computers up and running for working on them away from the office.
Yesterday was my day for thinking about space andorganizational performance. First, I listened to a webinar hosted by the Real Estate Executive Board. It was called the Headquarter Relocation Strategy Playbook and billed as:
"Another addition to REEB's collection of playbooks; this teleconference lays out a road map on the best way to tackle a headquarter relocation. Filled with case studies, actionable tools, and time-saving templates, this playbook should be your first stop when creating your own internal strategy."
Last week was curious in that I stumbled across all sorts of stuff that will be useful in my work with clients. But what I noticed was that the stumbling was entirely random. How would I know, for example, that the BlackBerry polling system that I wrote about was available unless I happened to be sitting in that particular session where it was being used.
How do people get to hear about stuff that is potentially useful? How do they squirrel it away for the time when it might be? I read somewhere (where???) about a pen that when you write in one language speaks in another. OK so I am going to Shanghai next week a pen that does that would be very useful now I come to think about it. How do I find out where I read about it?
The autumn 2010 issue of the RSA Journal has got two articles in it about social networking which make for useful and interesting reading as I get to grips with questions about how people establish and maintain social contacts and a sense of work community if they are working predominantly away from an office base and not seeing colleagues face to face.
The article "Nudge plus Networks" notes that "We have made great strides in developing our scientific knowledge about behavioural economics and network effects over the past couple of decades." And goes on to ask "But how far has this actually shaped our approach to public policy?" This question can usefully be asked about organizational policy. We are learning a lot about social networks and how work gets done outside the lines. (See Leading Outside the Lines) but not yet applying what we know about social network effects to career development, ways of working, or management of diffuse teams.
Yesterday I was at a roundtable in NY hosted by DEGW that describes itself as "a strategic business consultancy," that is to say they "make complex issues simple. Our people help clients to capitalize on a vital dynamic; the relationship between people and the design of physical place to enhance organisational performance. "
The topic was "Preparing People for the New Workspace". As the organizers said: "in implementing a workplace strategy, preparing a new workplace for people is half the challenge. The other half, or maybe more than half (!), is preparing people for the new workplace. "
Today, I'm sitting in NY from a hotel room in Times Square. Walking around the city yesterday which I haven't been to for a while I was struck by the fact that some of bicycle parking was roofed - why is that rare. There are a lot more cyclists, and the foot traffic is as much as Oxford Street in London.
At a meeting I went to - the topic was teleworking - we had a discussion on the 'business case' for it here in the NY office. Unlike other offices the people I was talking with didn't think the saving on carbon emissions was a selling point. Here, in Manhattan, people use mass transit to get into the office, and where they part outside in one of the boroughs in order to pick up the mass transit the boroughs are against the idea of teleworking because they'd lost parking fees, etc.
We're getting a lot of questions from people in the organization that I'm currently working with about teleworking. This is specifically in relation to the business strategy to increase the number of days people telework. The most frequently asked questions are: How will managers measure teleworkers performance? This is a question that comes both from the managers and the staff they manage - see my blog knowledge workers and the Kano model for one perspective on this.
Hot on the heels of this question is managers asking "How much physical space do I need for my staff?" Of course, the answer to this is 'It depends on the type of work, the worker's ability to telework, and the manager's ability to manage people teleworking."
Yesterday I was in a meeting where people were discussing the setting up of 'hoteling' in their office. Hoteling is the office management strategy that considers certain office resources, such as workspaces and equipment, to be shared assets, rather than assets 'owned' by specific individuals within the company. By sharing assets between employees, an organization can optimize the efficiency of their office, reduce their real estate costs by employing more people in the same space, and increase employee satisfaction and retention by giving them access to workspaces and resources whenever and wherever they need them. Hoteling is typically characterized by reservation and check-in processes, and includes telephone switching functionality.
Hoteling is different from hot desking or free addressing in which the office is considered to be like a parking lot - workspace available on a first come, first serve basis. There is no advance reservation capability, no check-in ability, and phones are typically forwarded instead of switched.
Someone just sent me a Gartner report called Introducing Hybrid Thinking for Transformation, Innovation and Strategy that offers the view that:
Hybrid thinking integrates the increasingly popular business concept of design thinking with other ways of thinking in order to take on "wicked problems" in business transformation, innovation and strategy. Design thinking's fundamental emphasis on creating meaningful, human-centered experiences provides the core for hybrid thinking, which is an emerging "discipline of disciplines." Hybrid thinking goes beyond design thinking by integrating other forms of creative thinking to take on the most ambiguous, contradictory and complex problems.
I've been working this week with a architecture company on redesigning office space. Hand in hand with the physical refurbishment of the building we are aiming to change the way people work and interact with each other. (I hesitate to use the words 'we are aiming to change the culture' but that is how others are describing it).
So I'm learning the new, to me, vocabulary of architecture, construction, engineering, and space planning. And working out, with that team how to use the physical space to shape the patterns of organizational life
I've been working with a business unit on redesigning their space. What is harder to get across is the notion that space redesign impacts other elements of the organizational system. In looking for ideas on how to guide the leaders into thinking about their unit as a system I dug out these five rules of thumb from my book on organization design:
1 Design when there is a compelling reason
Without a compelling reason to design it will be very difficult to get people behind any initiative and engaged in it. Business jargon talks about 'the burning platform' needed to drive major change. Part of a decision to design rests on making a very strong, strategic, widely accepted business case for it - based on the operating context. If there is no business case for design or redesign it is not going to work.
Until earlier this week I had not come across an organization that had introduced a formal policy, procedure and guidance note for its organisation design methodology. So it was an interesting read when I received just such a set of information.
The policy document specifies that its main purpose is to ensure that
• Organisation designs (including restructures) take place in a planned, consistent way in line with the Organisational Design methodology.
• The reasons for change are clear and transparent and that the risks of change and doing nothing are demonstrated.
• Design work takes place in partnership with stakeholders, ensuring their involvement at the earliest opportunity.
• Employees and their representatives are fully consulted concerning any changes that impact them throughout the process.
This week I've been working with a leadership team on some design principles for office space that will help drive the business strategy. One of the principles that was suggested was 'no shadows', which reminded me to review a piece I wrote (in my second book on Organisation Design) on the shadow side culture. Here's a slightly adapted extract.
Typically designated organisational leaders draw on formal authority, control of resources, and use of organisational structure, rules and regulations. But they have to draw on other sources depending on the situation. In many organisation design projects formal leadership is vested in consultants or contractors who are not directly employed by the enterprise. These leaders have to use different sources of power - while they may have formal authority they may not control resources or the use of organisational structures. If these 'outsider' leaders are not skilled at identifying and using the power sources at their disposal they often get sidelined for not being 'one of us'.
The context for organisation design typically raises a number of challenges for formal leaders i.e. those who have formal authority, control of resources, and use of organisational structure, rules and regulations. In essence they are having to simultaneously:
1. Balance the demands of the 'day job' with the demands of the project.
2. Manage a range of competing 'important' and 'urgent' priorities, tasks, and activities.
3. Help staff cope with what is inevitably seen as yet another change. (In some organisations this is called managing 'change fatigue'.)
4. Satisfy the need of the business for a fast change that also gets things right.
5. Get the timing right on leadership issues - knowing when to push and when to let go.
6. Motivate stakeholders who do not report to them but whose input is critical to the project.
7. Work effectively with other leaders both inside and outside the project.
This is a hard thing but doable if the leader
Thanks to my brother, I've just come across a wonderful series of 255 shorts on You Tube. The one I watched first was Daniel Pink talking about on performance and rewards in the RSAnimate series.
Drive: The surprising truth about what motivates us
Adapted from Dan Pink's talk at the RSA, it illustrates the hidden truths behind what really motivates us at home and in the workplace.
You can skim through the whole list of 255 vidoes to find the 'RSAnimates' and find several that are directly relevant to organization design and development, and many non-animates that are also worth watching.
What's wonderful about those is the RSAnimate series is that as the person is speaking you are watching a cartoonist/graphic artist illustrating the talk in real time. He/she is drawing at the same speed the speaking is speaking. It's rather like graphic sign language.
In today's New York Times there's an article about breast cancer diagnosis being prone to error. I read it carefully as one of my close relatives has just been told that she has breast cancer. What struck me about the article was the statement that there are
Reports in medical literature of a "wide array of variability" in interpreting breast pathology. "It is not a breach of the standard of care for one pathologist to have one opinion and another competent pathologist to have another opinion," the lawyers said.
"To recognize the problem requires you to acknowledge that there's room for improvement and that some of your colleagues are not really making the correct diagnosis," said Dr. Michael Lagios, a California pathologist"
I've just read two questionnaires aiming to find out what people feel about working in their office space (or rather doing their work).
As I read them I wondered how many people, when they are looking for a job, factor in the physical office space. (Beyond how long their commute to it is).
How many people at a job interview get the chance to actually look at the space they will be working in and work out whether its physical aspects of: light, heat, noise, closeness to coffee machine, lavatories, etc. are conducive to their well-being?
In my experience, asking interview questions about the physical space are not frequently found on a standard checklist of interview questions (either for the interviewee or the interviewer). But that would be useful for both parties. The physical space has significant impact on productivity.
The Independent printed a piece titled 'A hard chair equals a hard heart'. It's an interesting idea that psychologists have found that the texture and feel of objects around us, even those we are sitting on, can affect the way we think and behave.
Given that the office move I am involved in means buying furniture the thought fleetingly crossed my mind that if we insisted easy-going, laissez faire managers can only sit on hard chairs, and driving, hard pushing managers must have soft chairs, the result might be more equitable treatment of employees.
So I read the article playing with this idea, and discovered:
Changing office space, for example moving to a different building, or refitting an existing building, is an event that is much beyond the relocation itself. Thought through carefully and aligned to working practices and the business objectives and strategy it can lead to major changes in the way work is done, the cultural norms and practices, and employee motivation and productivity.
Unfortunately many companies fail to see the opportunities, beyond 'getting rid of paper' - replicating in their new space the things they had in the old space but with newer furniture, different wall colors, and (in better cases) less paper.
One of the reasons for this is to do with positional power and feelings of 'entitlement'. Many senior people feel they are 'entitled' to a large office with impressive furniture, while the junior staff will do just fine in an 8 x 8' cubicle with high partitions - the ubiquitous 'cube farm' approach. This does not square with global trends that are forcing different working patterns, and require the ability to think of space in terms of working practices and not status.
At the organization design training program I've been facilitating this week there's been lots of discussion on the politics of organization design. One person described at some length the blocking behavior of one the senior people and the difficulties in moving the work forward in this situation. He was looking for suggestions in how to work with people who were passive aggressive, confrontational, and plain stubborn.
Similar situations people talked about related to managers intent on changing the organization chart relationships without thinking of the consequences and impact on other elements of the organization. They built on the list of blocking behaviors including refusal to listen or discuss, pulling rank (the client/manager saying 'this is what we're going to do'), and discounting alternatives.
Yesterday I was facilitating the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development Organization Design progam. One of the attendees asked what the difference is between a business model and an operating model is and where organization design fits into either. That's a good question. A couple of years ago I taught a 12 week course on the California College of the Arts Design Strategy MBA on Business Models and Stakeholders.
I started that course with the question 'what is a business model'. Harvard Business School (case study number 9-708-452, revised June 23 2008) has a module, Competing Through Business Models that answers the question, making the point that:
Someone last week sent me a link to Simon Sinek talking at the TED conference on the topic 'How Great Leaders Inspire Action'. I've just listened to it and discover that it's about the power of knowing 'why' you do something. Sinek has a website and a book devoted to the topic 'Start with Why'. He has taken a simple idea - the power of what, how, why - and converted it into a money-spinner.
Basically, he suggests that unless people know 'why' they do something, or belived in what they do they will get know where. His view is that it is not enough to know 'what' you do. To inspire followers you have to show your belief in 'why' you do it. Among the examples in the TED video are apple, the Wright brothers, and Martin Luther King ("who gave the 'I have a dream' speech, and not the 'I have a plan' speech").
I found the talk, website, (and free download book chapter) interesting on a number of counts
What Edward Tufte would make of the headline "Love It or Hate It, PowerPoint Shapes Strategy-Making, Says New Paper" I can't imagine.
Tufte is one of the people who makes a very good case for hating PowerPoint saying: Alas, slideware often reduces the analytical quality of presentations. In particular, the popular PowerPoint templates (ready-made designs) usually weaken verbal and spatial reasoning, and almost always corrupt statistical analysis. What is the problem with PowerPoint? And how can we improve our presentations?
He presents his arguments in an essay The Cognitive Style of PowerPoint: Pitching out the Corrupts Within. One of his examples in this is an analysis of the way NASA scientists used PowerPoint to make engineering presentations. In relation to this Tufte asks the question "Is this a product endorsement or a big mistake?" (Neatly suggesting the latter).
I'm working with a client who currently has a hiring process that takes 198 days. Using a six sigma approach she has reduced it to 80 and is about to launch it on that basis. However, an internal client has come with the request for a 'bulk hiring' of 200 people to be done within 30 days. The question is, can the hiring process be accelerated to that level. What are the risks, and what would be compromised?
This is where people need to agree on the design criteria. Essentially design criteria
- Clarify what the new organization design must do well
- Identify 'problems' that must be solved in the new design
- Develop the 'benchmark profile' to guide the design and use in evaluating the design alternatives
- Take the emotion out of organization design and provides tangible data with which to assess options
- Provide focus for design or redesign that improves performance
- Lay the foundation for trade-off decisions - they articulate priorities that guide the design through conflicting needs.
- Keep members focused on the same outcomes of designing
- Enable differences to be surfaced and discussed
- Can be used to evaluate different design solutions
There's a long and interesting article in this month's print copy of The Atlantic, called 'The End of Men'.
The summary reads as follows:
"Earlier this year, women became the majority of the workforce for the first time in U.S. history. Most managers are now women too. And for every two men who get a college degree this year, three women will do the same. For years, women's progress has been cast as a struggle for equality. But what if equality isn't the end point? What if modern, postindustrial society is simply better suited to women? A report on the unprecedented role reversal now under way- and its vast cultural consequences."
When Disney acquired Pixar, in January 2006, Robert Iger, CEO of Disney, agreed to an explicit list of guidelines for protecting Pixar's creative culture. For instance, Pixar employees were able to keep their relatively plentiful health benefits and were not forced to sign employment contracts. He even stipulated that the sign on Pixar's front gate would remain unchanged.
Two years after the acquisition some analysts
were surprised that it was working successfully:
How Disney and Pixar are making the integration work holds lessons for other executives faced with the delicate task of uniting two cultures. Tactics that have served the companies well include the obvious, like communicating changes to employees effectively. Other decisions, including drawing up an explicit map of what elements of Pixar would not change, have been more unusual.
This week's Economist has two articles in it that caught my eye. The first is about NGOs and their relationships with corporate for-profits. Called Reaching for a Longer Spoon it outlines the closer relationships that activist non-profit groups are developing with for profit companies. The Nature Conservancy, for example, has received large sums of money from BP, while Conservation International has been paid, again by BP for advising on its oil extraction method. Environmental Defense Fund another non-profit collaborates with "such frequent targets of activists' ire as Wal-Mart, a giant retailer with no time for unions, and Kohlberg Kravis Roberts (KKR), a private-equity firm often depicted as a financial predator."
On Friday I went to see the movie Office Space. Either it didn't come out in the UK or I missed it but here in the US it seems as if every office worker has seen either it or the Milton animated shorts on which it is based, a zillion times.
The film follows Peter Gibbons (Ron Livingston), a software engineer cubicle dweller at Initech. He has a frustrating commute, normally tiresome coworkers, an inane boss and a girlfriend that he's pretty sure is cheating on him. The bright spots in his life are his two friends at work, his neighbor, and the waitress at the local café.
This is yet another in the genre of Up in the Air, State of Play, and Outsourced all of which I've seen in the last year and all of which look at the idiocies and difficulties of organizational life. I guess that a film showing people enjoying their work, with good bosses, in pleasant environments wouldn't be a crowd drawer. But the fact that these films and related TV programs (Back to the Floor, Undercover Boss) and Dilbert (and Alex in the UK) cartoons are so popular is that office or work life really is as depicted for many people. Who hasn't been involved in a conversation like this one at some point?
Recently I've spent a lot of time 'standing behind the yellow line' in immigration queues waiting to have my passport stamped to be let into a country. I've also stood waiting behind people to check out at the supermarket, get money from an ATM, board buses, and buy movie tickets.
I looked at the queues to get into the World Expo country pavilions and decided that it wasn't worth my time for the pay-off. Instead I enjoyed my Expo experience of walking through the landscaped gardens there, watching the people, and seeing the pavilions from the outside.
Now I've just read an article on 'balking behavior'. Business management professor Pen-Yuan Liao of the National United University in Miaoli, Taiwan makes the point that:
No one enjoys queuing, so even small reductions in waiting time will result in better quality of service and lead to enhancing customer loyalty and so increased sales
Yesterday I mentioned telepresence in my blog and later in the day went to a telepresence meeting - my first experience of using this technology. I'd read one definition of it in a white paper from Frost and Sullivan a consultancy. They say it is
... a tightly integrated set of visual, audio and network technologies and services that together deliver an immersive, life-like communication experience. The goal is to reproduce the best characteristics of direct human interaction that result from a face-to-face meeting.
The value of the medium is said to lie in the cost savings to a company. Although there is a heavy investment in installing the technology and keeping it running - recieved wisdom suggests that this is more than paid off in terms of direct and indirect costs of travelling to meet people. Additionally in their white paper Frost and Sullivan suggest that there are also green gains to be had from teleconferencing.
People frequently ask me the difference between organization design and organization development. I had another go at answering in the workshop I was facilitating last week. This time I gave the car analogy.
Organization design is deciding first what is the purpose of the car that you are about to design e.g. is it to cross the desert? Is it to win a Formula 1 race? Is it to transport two adults and three children to a party? Then designing and delivering a car that is fit for that purpose.
Organization development is about keeping that vehicle in the condition necessary to achieve the purpose e.g. using the right fuel, having it serviced regularly, teaching the driver how to drive it to maximize its performance, and so on.
Human Capital Management (HCM) is not the same as Human Resource Management (HRM). HCM involves strategic investment in the intangible assets that the human side of the enterprise represents. The aim is to achieve individual and organizational return on the investment in a way that develops the business, and that can be reported on an annual balance sheet if required.
HCM is the management of an intangible and volatile organizational asset. This asset being the collective sum of the attributes, life experience, knowledge, inventiveness, energy, and enthusiasm that the organization's people choose to invest in their work.
"Like financial capital, people need to be treated with care, respect, and commitment if the organization expects them to stay invested. It must also provide them with the returns they need. Just as in managing financial capital, organizations cannot afford to waste their human capital or risk it going to places where it can get a better return. Like financial capital, human capital needs to be carefully allocated, utilized, and managed." (Lawler, 2003).
Despite its frequent use, there is no universal definition for the term "business transformation." It can mean different things to different people (and organizations) in difference situations. In fact, each of the following news stories reported during one week in October 2007 provides an example of business transformation:
Business transformation is changing something for the better within our organization (i.e., one small change can make a big difference) - "When Starbucks bumped the 8 oz. cup off the menu, the 10 oz. "tall" (the new small) increased profits by 25 cents per cup for only 2 cents of added product."
Business Week has a special report on The Value of Design (February 1 2010). It "takes a closer look at how design can impact the bottom line of businesses in any industry
"attempting "to pick apart the issue a little further, with opinion pieces on the value of design from those within and outside the profession. IDEO partner Diego Rodriguez makes the case that good business arises from a design-centric process that incorporates marketing, research, and ideas. RKS Design's Ravi Sawhney and Deepa Prahalad http://rksdesign.com/blog/index.php/what_we_think/ outline four specific areas in which design can create value: understanding the consumer; mitigating risk; boosting marketing and branding; and driving sustainable business practices."
The section I read first was the RKS piece on the role of design in business: about which more and more is being written as the boundaries between architects, product designers, and organization designers are blurring. Which brought to mind the work of The US General Services Administration.
Organisation design success is dependent on the complex interactions of four broad leadership groups: internal formal and informal leaders, and, external formal leaders and external informal leaders. Each of these groups has at their disposal various sources of power and although formal leaders tend to have access to more of these than informal leaders the way the power is wielded is an important determinant of the outcome - as martial arts practitioners know soft as cotton can be as hard as steel.
Access to and use of power is one of several variables determining ability to lead. Other variables include style of attracting and holding on to followers, stability or instability of circumstances, personal motivation, and the organisation's political landscape. The efficacy of leaders changes as the context does and someone who cannot adjust their style of leadership or draw on a different source of power is opening the door for someone else to seize the leadership role.
Someone just lent me a book by Donald A Norman called Things that Make us Smart . The Library Journal review of it on Amazon says that
By virtue of their design, machines shape the way we relate to the world. Moreover--as anyone who has been annoyed by voice message systems can testify - many technological "advances" that are efficient from the engineering point of view are of dubious value to those who must use them.
Although I saw it was written more than 15 years ago, it's a book that immediately appealed because today a) I tried twice to make a call to Carefirst, a healthcare provider, and the machine did not recognize a British accent as I said the numbers of my ID. For some unknown reason it also didn't recognize them when I punched them into my phone. Additionally I was on hold for 26 minutes the first time with a machine voice repeatedly telling me how to avoid allergies by washing my bed linen, and keeping my pets inside. At minute 27 I hung up. I tried again later and after being on hold - this time for 32 minutes a human voice was heard.
In the way of things someone called me yesterday and in the course of the conversation asked me how much I knew about biomimicry (next to nothing), and today a completely different person, knowing nothing of the conversation, sent me an article on biomimicry that she thought I'd be interested in.
So now I'm learning about biomimicry! The Biomimicry Institute says:
Biomimicry is the science and art of emulating Nature's best biological ideas to solve human problems. Non-toxic adhesives inspired by geckos, energy efficient buildings inspired by termite mounds, and resistance-free antibiotics inspired by red seaweed are examples of biomimicry happening today.
"One of the most common reasons that redesigns fail is the all too common assumption that the job essentially ends with the announcement of the new design."
This quote is taken from Competing by Design, by David A. Nadler, Michael L. Tushman. Although written a while ago it still holds true. However, I've found that suggesting review meets with resistance. But without reviewing opportunities for improvement are lost and/or things can go disastrously wrong.
There are several good reasons for doing reviews:
- They help you to evaluate your success in achieving your design's objectives.
- They identify anything that is out of alignment that needs work, and surface tasks still to be completed. (These may be things on the list or they may arise out of the review work).
- They identify the impact of change so far - using the measures and metrics, you have in place to track success.
- They provide the opportunity to recognize and reward the achievement of project team members and others involved.
- They enable you and your team to reflect on the organization design process and learn from your experience: reviewing gives you information and knowledge to share with other projects teams and with your stakeholders
Yesterday I was talking to the UK office of a search firm who are looking for a UK Head of Organizational Design for "a highly successful global consumer lifestyle business". The company is a fast-growing FTSE 100 company with operations in Europe, the Americas and Asia (under 10,000 employees and turnover of around £2bn); they are in the market to recruit a Head of Organisational Design to be based at their head office in London. The recruiter said that this "is quite a meaty role that will have tremendous influence at the highest levels within the business."
Fleetingly I wondered if I should put my hat in the ring but instead offered a few pointers on where to look. Apart from naming individuals to contact there are several avenues:
At the conference I was at yesterday Traci Entel, from Booz, presented on 'The Power of the Coherence Premium'. She talked about a revised 'palette' of organizational elements which combined the forma (F) and informal (I) of the organization.
Structure (F) and networks (I)
Decision rights/management information (F) and behaviors (I)
Motivators (F) and identity (I)
Information (F) and beliefs (I)
She told us that organizations must decide what capability they are trying to compete on. Having done this ensuring 'coherence' amongst and between the palette elements in a way that delivers the capability is the route to success.
The New York Times today has an article about an incubator company Betaworks . It "has guided some entrepreneurs to lucrative sales and helped others raise cash from notable New York and Silicon Valley investment firms".
What's notable about Betaworks is that it has an unconventional business model. The founders, John Borthwick and Andrew Weissman, "spent nine months deliberating over how to structure their company before settling on a hybrid of an investment firm and an incubator. " Borthwick says that "our goal is to create a network of companies with lots of connections between them that increases the likelihood of success between all of them."
An MBA student emailed me about entering the field of organization design. She wrote:
To give you a bit of context, I'm very interested in human capital management, in particular how organizations manage and communicate change and how companies can structure themselves to maximize creativity/innovation and reduce silo-based, political decision-making.
My experience working as a special assistant to members of the C-suite of the company I was with pre-MBA gave me interesting perspective on the way talent was managed at the top and the trickle down effects those practices had on the organization as a whole.
I'd enjoy talking to you and getting your guidance on what to read, companies to think of as leaders in managing talent, and your general thoughts on what it means to work on HR issues in today's workplace.
The article 'Here be Dragons' in the Economist notes that Business travellers in today's emerging markets ... constantly come across what to Western eyes look like exotic corporate species and new, unfamiliar kinds of business which raise profound questions about the evolution of companies and business models.
What I've found is that people are confused about what a business model is. Briefly, it is the 'what and how' of a business: in graphical terms it is a simplified representation of its business logic. It describes what a company offers its customers, how it reaches them and relates to them, through which resources, activities and partners it achieves this and finally, how it earns money". In a sense a business model is what someone seeking investor support to set up a company would describe in the business plan.
Strategy + Business has just published an article Leading Outside the Lines. Its summary reads:
In every company, there are really two organizations at work: the informal and the formal. High-performance companies mobilize their informal organizations while maintaining and adding formal structures, balancing the two.
Reading the full article reveals that
In every company, there are really two organizations at work: the formal and the informal. The formal organization is the default governing structure of most large companies founded in the past century. Businesspeople recognize the formal organization as that rational construct that runs on rules, operates through hierarchies and programs, and evaluates performance by the numbers.
The spring 2010 RSA Journal (UK) has an article by Robin Dunbar, professor of evolutionary anthropology at the University of Oxford. He has a theory that
Among primates in general, there is a simple relationship between a species' typical social group size and the size of its neocortex (very roughly, the thinking part of the brain). Humans fit nicely on to the end of this line, with a predicted group size based on our neocortex size of about 150 - the figure that is now known as 'Dunbar's number'.
Last week I noted that Leaders used to leading in a command and control way in a hierarchy with layers and spans are having a hard time changing their leadership style to one that is more collaborative, involving, and recognizes networks of expertise rather than positional power.
An article on the new tie-up aimed at bolstering their offerings in small, energy efficient vehicles between Daimler and Renault-Nissan caught my eye. The new alliance will focus on sharing resources in four main areas: platforms for small cars and light commercial vehicles; small petrol and diesel engines; technology for fully electric and hybrid cars; and bigger diesel engines.
Carlos Ghosn, Renault-Nissan, CEO and President, believes that cross-shareholdings are a critical signal to employees, especially engineers, that the partnership is both long-term and strategic. He and Dieter Zetsche, Daimler's boss, now face the task of convincingly making the tie up work.
Of the ten skills of anticipatory leadership that I mentioned yesterday the I have seen leaders having most difficulty with is in spotting future trends. The difficulty lies not in spotting the trends, but in then acting on what has been spotted.
The work of human systems theorist, Barry Oshry focuses on the way in which the systemic dynamics created by social structure affects the power and efficacy of individuals and groups.
An article by Michael Sales that discusses a case of an R & D middle management group identifying material trends in their context and presenting them to leaders for endorsement and support illustrates the difficulties inherent in getting action agreed and started. It exemplifies Oshry's view that members of what he terms the Top, Bottom, and Middle of an organization have different agendas. Sales (simplifying Oshry's theory) suggests that these different agendas act as barriers and stumbling blocks to acting on good trend information:
An organization design practitioner from a UK City Council emailed me the other day with a question:
"If governments are starting to address the concept of GWB (General Wellbeing) and therefore happiness of the population, could this be a planned outcome of an organization design for public sector? "
His question had been sparked by an article in The Times which notes that:
Nicolas Sarkozy, the French President, has raised this fundamental question: what is the end of government? Precisely, is it a function of the State to promote the happiness of its citizens?
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.
Organization Development is typically thought of as part of the HR bundle of work. In my view this is a mistake - organization development is closely related to the business strategy as a strategy cannot be delivered in the most efficient and effective way without the requisite organizational capability. Organizational capability is much more than the capability of the employees to do the work - it is about deploying capable tools, systems, processes, performance measures and so on that together with the people comprise organizational capability.
Establishing an Organizational Development Center of Excellence, or consulting unit staffed by consultants qualified in both process consulting and expert consulting in a range of business disciplines allows for a whole systems approach to organization development. It does not need to be a big unit - particularly if the aim is to work collaboratively with the client on the presenting issue, opportunity, etc with the goal of transferring OD capability to him/her. But it does have to have a clear brief, support from senior business leaders, and a mandate to operate at various levels in the organization (strategic to operational, and organizational, management, group, and individual)
An internal consulting function with this brief also acts as a bridge and control point between any external consultants employed by the organization - ensuring that they are operating in consistent way considering the benefit of the whole organization. (External consultants are often employed in a piecemeal, haphazard way which is both costly and risky).
The report Retrench or Refresh puts the proposition that to stay competitive companies need to be innovative in their business model. In the final part of the report "experts explain how they feel business models need to change for survival, what leaders should focus on and what are the weaknesses in current models". What comes out of this section is more or less a list of the characteristics of a re-charged business model that is viable and successful in today's context and has features that improve competitiveness, increase efficiencies, use resources better and focuses on the customer. Characteristics include:
The authors of the report Retrench or refresh? Do existing business models still deliver the goods? recently published by the Economist Intelligence Unit and Grant Thornton make the point that organizations expecting to survive the recession should do more than control costs. They should look at their business model and change it appropriately. Rightly, the report authors point out that the notion of a business model 'defies easy definition'. One that I've found helpful is that it is the 'what and how' of a business. "The business model of a company is a simplified representation of its business logic. It describes what a company offers its customers, how it reaches them and relates to them, through which resources, activities and partners it achieves this and finally, how it earns money". (For a more detailed discussion of this definition see Osterwalder, A. (2007). How to describe and assess your business model to compete better.
The CIO's jargon busting blog has an excellent discussion of cloud computing a term that is bandied about and which came back into my conversations when I was working with a UK city council earlier this week. (We were discussing 'consumerization of IT', another phrase to go in the jargon buster). The CIOs discussion points out that:
Many of you are now realizing that you know more about cloud computing than you'd thought. If you're using a SaaS app in your enterprise, you're using "the cloud." If you run your personal life via Google tools, you're tapping into "the cloud.
The phrase "good design is cheap, bad design is expensive" came up again in an organization design training course I was facilitating yesterday. One of the delegates took issue with the connotation of good design being 'cheap'. He offered an amendment to the phrase, suggesting "Good design can cost a lot. Bad design will cost a lot." Other delegates agreed with the amendment - so there it stands and the following story illustrates:
One delegate told the story of a newly designed and built elementary school, where lunches for the children were prepared on site. Some of the design faults they were contending with because architects had not consulted with stakeholders in the meal preparation process included:
In the past few weeks the word 'frugality' has cropped up in connection with organizations and consumers. I wonder if it is the new buzz word and we are now going to see a crop of books on 'frugal organizations'? This could be a good author opportunity - there are many books on frugal living including 'Frugal Living for Dummies' but nothing specifically about frugal organizations that I stumbled across when interrogating amazon.com.
An article in strategy+business, March 15 2010, 'The New Consumer Frugality' reports that
A new frugality, characterized by a strong value consciousness that dictates trade-offs in price,
brand, and convenience, has become the dominant mind-set among consumers in the United States - and probably in other wealthy countries as well. Two-thirds of American shoppers are cutting coupons more frequently, buying low price over convenience, and emphasizing saving over spending. Per capita consumption expenditure has declined across demographic groups. Consumer sentiment remains weak. These trends are not going to change, no matter the pace of economic change.
Richard Seymour, of SeymourPowell speaking on Day Two of the Big Rethink Conference (The Redesigning Business Summit) was interesting on the connection between anthropology and design. He made the point that 'what we say and what we do are often different', a fairly obvious fact, but he noted that it is observing these disconnects that make for good design information. He is of the view that taking the stance of an anthropologist and closely watching what is going on is the way to approach design. "Anthropology is before technology" is one of the phrases he used. Another sound bite of his that caught my attention is that "the future is in emergent behavior" (relating back to the anthropology). I'm not sure what 'emergent behavior' is. How does it differ from behavior?
He showed a video clip of people trying to open a packet of frozen peas - ultimately attacking the poorly designed packaging with a pair of scissors. The mantra around this: "Fix things that are bust." This seems obvious when you watch the packet of peas scenario - and these actions that he mentioned: watching for disconnects, looking at behaviors, and fixing things that are bust, used in his case in relation to product design - are also applicable to organization design.
This was written while traveling in to Day 2 of the conference. Having just read an article on sleep and memory it was fun to see what stuck in mind in since writing about it traveling back on from Day 1.
Will Hutton, of the Work Foundation, getting impassioned about the relatives merits of China v Korea on where new business models and innovative ideas would generate. He had an impressive array of facts and figures at his disposal to back up his views that South Korea is the place to watch. He also put forward a concept of "manu-services - manufacturing companies offering both services and products." See the Work Foundation's report Manufacturing and the Knowledge Economy on this topic.
Ideo's Paul Bennett putting forward their ideas on the four pillars of a new business model. Purpose, talent, something I don't remember and money. The focus throughout Ideo's presentation on money was a jarring note - no mention from them of sustainability, ethics, climate change, social concerns, triple bottom line, and so on that informed most of the other presentations, that combined with presentations of distinctly uninnovative business models made this segment much less than expected.
Thursday March 11 was day one of the Economist Conference The Big Rethink: The Redesigning Business Summit and, having spent the day there I'm wondering a) what I learned, and b) was it worth the time and money investment? It's a bit early in the process to make any judgment on either. I've found that on this type of learning event it's what sticks in my mind several weeks later that gives some indication. At this stage I'm guessing about what might stick in my mind.
On immediate recall - I was not very happy on two housekeeping accounts a) there was no postal address for the venue on the program. King's Place, London is not easy to track down. b) when I got there I didn't appear in their register of attendees, and having given my name I was asked "Are you sure that's your name?" Fortunately, I have the receipt and the name on it is my name. But not being listed may explain why I didn't get any venue or other details (beyond the receipt). UPDATE on this. Day 2 the same thing happened but was sorted out by the conference Logistics Manager who apologized for the error and offered me free attendance at any future Economist Conference.
There have been three pieces of information in the last couple of weeks on the push for citizen access to government data. They caught my eye because I am doing some work with some government departments. Taken together they make three points about this drive for data transparency:
• It "forces bureaucrats and creative types to interact in new ways'' (see: February 4 the Economist printed an article 'Of governments and geeks')
• It seeks "to merge two cultures: the risk-averse ethos of the civil service, and the free-wheeling spirit of open-source developers, who seek continuous incremental change and see failure as a step to improvement" (Same article)
"Zipf's law, named after the Harvard linguistic professor George Kingsley Zipf (1902-1950), is the observation that frequency of occurrence of some event (P), as a function of the rank (i) when the rank is determined by the above frequency of occurrence, is a power-law function Pi (l/ia) with the exponent a close to unity. The famous example of Zipf's law is the frequency of the income of a company."
So starts the abstract of an article called "Zipf's law in assets and income of a company" by
Kon Tadashi, et al. Unfortunately I do not fully, or even partly, understand what the abstract saying but I was alerted to Zipf's Law when I was asking a colleague about tracking web traffic to a site. I was wondering how to encourage people to look at my site. I can't remember the details of the conversation but at one point he mentioned Zipf's Law which I had never heard of.
A friend sent an enquiry to me and a couple of others yesterday which set me thinking. Here's what she asked:
I'm trying to think of an article or book chapter to give to a group of Arts students that would provide the "classic" background on what an organization is - the basic theory piece.
I'm hoping to give them something that will help frame a discussion around what an organization really is - sort of the classic thinking. There must be a chapter or article - perhaps from an org. textbook. What would you give a group of "beginners" about how to think about organizations?
What I liked about the question (apart from the opportunity to delve into my folder "Articles" on my computer and wonder why I had the same article under different titles in more than one case) was that it's a challenging one to answer. Like her I have hundreds of articles on various aspects of organization theory, design, psychology, behavior, and so on but none that tackled head on the discussion of 'what is an organization?'
I've just come across a short piece about business culture and innovation that precedes an article to be published - date unspecified - in the Journal of Product Innovation Management (you can order a sample copy of this journal). The paper is written by William Qualls of the University of Illinois and Jelena Spanjol. (NOTE: March 3, 2010. My thanks to him for subsequent to my writing this sending the full paper to me).
This piece sent me in two directions. The first direction was a question to myself "Is there a Journal of Service Innovation Management'? The answer to this appears to be "No". There is the International Journal of Innovation Management which has some interesting looking articles in it. For example: Implementing Best Practices to Support Creativing in NPD Cross-Functional Teams "The use of cross-functional teams increases creativity in new product development leading to shorter development time and higher product innovativeness. Research in new product development [NPD] has identified a number of organisational practices associated with supporting organisational creativity in cross-functional teams including frequent and open communication, building organisational slack, attitude to risk and top management commitment."
On Tuesday I went to the exhibition of the Terracotta Warriors in Washington DC (on until March 31). . It's captivating, not just beautifully curated but in the story that it tells. The story I heard and saw was one of focused organization design on a colossal scale.
The UK's British Museum website gives a very brief history of the establishment of the unified empire established under Qin Shihuangdi, its First Emperor (259 - 210 BC):
Before its unification under Qin Shihuangdi, its First Emperor (259 - 210 BC), China was made up of seven major states which were often at war with each other, vying for power and supremacy. Historians call this time the Warring States period (475 - 221 BC).
Yesterday I went to a Giant food store in my locality. I don't normally go there. But it's owned by Ahold, a Dutch Company, and I'd just met someone who works for them, so I wanted to see for myself what they'd said about it.
Giant is the same distance from where I live as my other choices of food stores: Safeways, Wholefoods, and Yes Organic so I have a several choices when it comes to food shopping. Thinking about the four I wondered how I compared them. Why did I choose one over another, why hadn't I gone to Giant before?
Right around this time an article dropped into my email How Categories and Environment Create Satisfied and Well-Informed Consumers. It's a summary of a new Pitt/USC study to be published in the June issue of Journal of Consumer Research .
Earlier today I was looking at McKinsey Quarterly's Risk Roundup for 2010. They ask the question "where will the greatest risks-known and unknown-flare up on the global business landscape this year?"
Looking at the three sets of information (the Economist Intelligence Unit, the Eurasia Group, and the World Economic Forum) they present it is alarming to see the wide ranging nature of the risks, and this is before the 66 (so far) people who have left comments weigh in with the additional risks they've spotted. It's all very gloomy and depressing.
But the Eurasia Group Report reminds us that 2009 has, in fact, been quite ok. So looking forward into bleakness we can remember happier times. It opens with the paragraph:
I just received the Career Innovation Newsletter containing a link to an article When Performance-Related Pay Backfires. It previews a day of discussion of recent research on performance related pay that was held on June 30 2009 at the London School of Economics (LSE)
One piece of research, by Samuel Bowles and Sandra Reyes of the Santa Fe Institute, was an analysis of 51 separate experimental studies of financial incentives in employment relations' . The paper has the rather daunting title of "Economic Incentives and Social Preferences: A Preference-Based Lucas Critique of Public Policy". The Abstract is not for the faint-hearted:
Policies and explicit incentives designed for self-regarding individuals sometimes are less effective or even counterproductive when they diminish altruism, ethical norms and other social preferences. Evidence from 51 experimental studies indicates that this crowding out effect is pervasive, and that crowding in also occurs. A model in which self-regarding and social preferences may be either substitutes or complements is developed and evidence for the mechanisms underlying this non-additivity feature of preferences is provided. The result is a preference-based analogue to the Lucas Critique restricting feasible implementation to allocations that are supportable given the effect of incentives on preferences.
My mother is in hospital this week having a hip revision (and doing fine). Going into the place where she is having it reminded me that I'd been reading more stuff about hospital design. For example I'd looked at the Kaiser Permanente's Garfield Healthcare Innovation Center (established in June 2006) website
It describes itself as:
A living laboratory where ideas are tested and solutions are developed in a hands-on, mocked-up clinical environment. Many aspects of delivering healthcare can be innovated and examined at the Center using real-world scenarios and activities, such as simulations, technology testing, prototyping, product evaluations, and training.
Although several of their pages are locked for KP personnel only it's easy enough to get an overview of the types of activities the Center is engaged in and why this form of experiential approach to innovation and collaboration is an exciting and productive one.
Reading the Economist special report on social networking, coincides with my preparation for a seminar that I'm facilitating (in March) on the new designs of organizations, and in mulling over the tack to take on that I came across the Dachis Group who have a white paper on Social Business Design. It's a pretty interesting bundle - although conscious of my current thinking on 'management guff' v plain English I felt this was weighted toward the management guff end of the spectrum. One can't really argue with their start-point that Technology, society, and work are all changing at breakneck speeds. Businesses that seek to create and capture value from these changes must harness opportunities at their intersection, the hub of social business.
Yesterday I had two interesting experiences. I had to exchange my San Francisco driver's license for a Washington DC one which meant a trip to the DMV. I also had to go to an Embassy's (Visa Department) to get a visa for my planned trip to that country. Previous experience of both the DMV and visa applications led me to pack - yes I felt I was going on an expedition - a long novel and some unobtrusive snacks. (Eating and drinking in most of these types of places is not allowed - however long the wait).
In both cases my preparation was similar.
- Read the instructions on the website extremely carefully
- Print off the form.
- Complete the form accurately - always a challenge for me as I tend to dash ahead and do things like put my date of birth in the UK order and not the US order. NOTE in the UK the day comes before the month.
- Collect together the various documents that are required. For the DMV that means - social security card, passport, previous driving license, and utility bill as proof of current address. For the Visa application it meant passport, letter from people inviting me, letter confirming hotel reservation + passport sized photo.
- Check the opening times of the two offices and schedule enough time to sit in both for as long as it took. (I decided to leave the day free).
Two articles in the Economist of January 16 caught my eye. The first Driven to Distraction was a commentary on Daniel Pink's new book Drive: the Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us. And the second was Carrots Dressed as Sticks (an experiment on economic incentives). Both were essentially about bonus and incentives schemes - a hot topic in any discussion of recognition and rewards in organizations. I get involved in these debates as I work with people designing or redesigning their organizations.
I subscribe to an email newsletter from Science Daily. I find it fascinating as each day I get information on the latest research on a variety of topics. So today's included:
Barefoot Running Easier Than Shoes on Feet
Rotting Fish Illuminate Our Earliest Ancestry
New Species of Tyrannosaur
Stratospheric Water Vapor: Warming Wild Card
Astronomers Discover Coolest Sub-Stellar Body
Gene Function Discovery: Guilt by Association
Emissions of Potent Greenhouse Gas Increasing
Microbes Produce Fuels Directly from Biomass
Gecko's Lessons Applied to Microelectronics
Why Jupiter's Ganymede and Callisto Differ
This week I've seen several different reviews both in the UK and the US, and listened to the HBR Idea Cast on the new book, The Checklist Manifesto, by Dr. Atul Gawande, surgeon at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
His 'big idea' is that using safety checklists in the operating theatre saves lives while "a study backed by the WHO in eight hospitals, ... found that implementing the list has cut major complications in surgery by 36% on average". It doesn't seem that revelatory to discover that checklists work - isn't it the same technique used in TQM and continuous improvement approaches to reduce errors? The book I wrote about recently 'Quality is Personal' uses the concepts of checklists to keep things on track, and airline pilots have been using them for years. (Charles Lindbergh was one of the earliest users in 1927).
I have an Organization Design list of forty items on Amazon's Listmania. I then tried to add another item but apparently each list only takes forty items. So I have an Organization Design List Two with that item on which looks very strange as one item does not, in my view, qualify as a list. So now I need to spend some time adding more items to list two. (Or deleting it - which is probably the better option in terms of choices around time investment at this stage).
Someone gave me the book The Wikipedia Revolution by Andrew Lih. It's a great story about organizational design - how an organization is thought about by its participants, how it evolves, and what pressures make the community take one route over another.
Setting off with the philosophy of "Assume Good Faith" backed up by "BEBOLD", and "SOFIXIT" Wikipedia's principles have been boiled down to five unchangeable pillars that Lih says 'Define Wikipedia's character':
Architects and interior designers traditionally work with company facility managers to upgrade or redesign the physical working environment. The physical environment is rarely discussed in this context and by these practitioners as integral to the organization's business model, the delivery of its strategy, and as a component of the design of whole organizational system.
This is a missed opportunity. The physical environment is a reflector of the culture, values, and preoccupations of the organizational members. The corner office, for example, is the prime example of a physical space status symbol, reflecting positional power. The choices of marble, wood, or other surfaces give clues on organizational values - lavish use of hardwood might be at odds with corporate statements about sustainability - and on the industry sector (the reception area of a hospital is very different from the reception area of a bank).
I've been asked to go and facilitate an organization design two-day training program in China next year. Accepting it has had the effect of making me really take a closer look at several aspects of the design of the program. I already have a two day program that I lead for the UK's Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) in London. I've run it over at least 4 years now and it's progressively become more popular - in the first couple of years it ran twice each year. Last year a third set of dates was offered, as was this year, and next year will also be three sessions.
Each month I am putting up one tool that I use in the course of my organization design work. December's is the 'Ten Principles of Good Organization Design'. It's presented in my book Organization Design: the Collaborative Approach where I note that there is a useful discussion around the principles in Gareth Morgan's book Images of Organization. And I mention specifically Chapter 3.
I've just re-read that chapter to see how I developed the tool as a result of reading it the first time round. (I think that was the order but maybe I developed the tool and then read the chapter - I don't remember).
One of the many emails I get in an attempt to keep myself up to date in what is going on in the world (at least the bits that I am interested in) is from Science Daily which lists recently published research in a number of fields. It's easy to get lost in reading the many intriguing articles that bear no relation to why I am getting the email in the first place e.g. Polyphenols and Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids Boost the Birth of New Neurons, but also it has a good number of research studies that exactly relate to what I am involved in.
I am currently working with a retailer on an organization design project so it was good to find the article posted last week on Talking to Ourselves: How Consumers Navigate Choices and Inner Conflict "From simple decisions like "Should I eat this brownie?" to bigger questions such as "Should my next car be a hybrid?" consumers are involved in an inner dialogue that reflects thoughts and perspectives of their different selves, according to the authors of a new study in the Journal of Consumer Research".
I was working with a UK City Council yesterday and looking at the new Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD) HR Profession Map. They launched this earlier this year as a replacement to the Professional Standards (i.e. the path for certifying HR practitioners).
There are three main sections to the map:
a) Professional areas
There are 10 professional areas within the map. For each particular area the map describes what you need to do (e.g. the activities) and what you need to know, as well as outlining the predominant behaviours that you need to exhibit when carrying out the activities.
These are in two categories: first, "Strategy Insights and Solutions" comprising Service Delivery and Information, Employee Relations, Employee Engagement, and Performance and reward. Second, "Leading and managing the HR function" comprising Organization Design, Organization Development, Resource and Talent Planning, Learning and Talent Development.
Two related items caught my eye - both about citizen services. The first is an 'In Brief" item in the McKinsey Quarterly that came this month. The second is about the way various Latin American Governments stand in citizen satisfaction with government services from the 2009, Latin American Public Opinion Project,
The first discusses metrics that are useful for measuring citizen satisfaction, and then gives an example of a government call center that developed a 'labor allocation model' that resulted in being able to "improve the service balance between the two channels while also raising overall customer satisfaction". (The two channels being phone calls and paper applications).
I got an email last week from the World Future Society telling me about the Certificate in Strategic Foresight that's running for 5 days in Houston, Texas from January 11 - 15 2010.
This five-day program in January 2010 provides tools to create a positive future for your company and yourself in today's constantly changing world.
Yesterday I was working with a client on developing a case simulation for training purposes. It's been a fascinating exercise. The client has recently designed and introduced an in-house organization design methodology with toolkit. It has been piloted on several projects in various business units and is gaining an internal reputation for 'this is the way to restructure, upsize/downsize, start a new business unit, etc.' which is great - particularly since it takes a whole systems approach and is not focused on fiddling with the organization chart.
People frequently ask me the difference between organization design and organization development. I had another go at answering yesterday in a workshop. This time I gave the car analogy.
Organization design is deciding first what is the purpose of the car that you are about to design e.g. is it to cross the desert? Is it to win a Formula 1 race? Is it to transport two adults and three children to a party? The second stage is to design and deliver a car that is fit for that purpose.
Yesterday I was working with a client group to develop their internal organization design framework and methodology. I had my two organization design books with me and was explaining that many of the tools that I was suggesting be adapted for their use appear in the books.
Although I frequently wonder why reviews, post implementation, of organization design projects are so rarely done today I am pleased to hear that one client is about to ask questions about the business benefits that the organization design project has realized so far. I was employed to go as far as the delivery of the design so was not involved in the implementation, and am re-engaging from a different angle in the review.
The Organisation Design and Change Framework and Toolkit is housed on the UK's National School of Government website. It was developed by representatives from the public and private sectors. It is a seven stage framework with a range of models, tools, and quotes that are freely downloadable.
I've just skimmed through Matthew Crawford's book Shop Class as Soulcraft, having read it during the early part of the summer. I was looking for his description of working as an article abstractor. It's a few vivid paragraphs on what it was like being employed on a piece work basis to write abstracts of academic articles. His starting quota was fifteen articles a day and when he left eleven months later his quota was twenty-eight articles. Apparently abstractors were taught how to write abstracts to a formula or method - they didn't need to have an understanding anything in the article.
I've just started to read The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work by Alain de Botton. It's a very entertaining book not least because he appears to me to have such a tongue in cheek attitude to his subjects. The sort of innocent way he almost pokes fun at the seriousness of the workers he meets is delightful although I am surprised that he got permission to publish names.
The United Biscuits' story works well as a case study in job design - and also prompts me to go out and try Moments - which I never have as I'm not a biscuit (cookie) eater but the story of how they got their name and are made merits at least a taste test. Working at British Airways I was close to Hayes, where the factory is, and sometimes passed it on the train - the smell of the baking was like a tunnel the train passed through.
I wonder how many managers have the skills to sketch, draw, paint, etc. It's a paradox that organization design doesn't seem to involve many of the visual skills commonly associated with artists or graphic designers. An article, by Tom Ehrenfeld, Managing to See from Strategy + Business (August 2008 Issue 52) which I just re-read makes the point that:
Visual management has become an essential discipline for managers today. The practice involves communicating with images, organizing and directing work through visual controls, and creating clear graphic depictions of complex ideas-for example, to enable workers to see how their work fits into a value stream flowing directly to customers.
One of the knottier issues around an organization design is estimating the costs of getting from the current to the future organization. Questions like
- What are transitional costs?
- What are opportunity costs?
- Are we including qualitative costs as well as financial costs?
All start to come into play as the design process proceeds. What happens in many projects is that the design process proceeds without an ongoing cost estimation, and it is hard to get to actual costs before the design is completed.
I spent a lot of Sunday wandering around concepts of 'responsibility' v 'accountability' - trying to answer questions like 'Are the words used synonymously?' 'What does each mean?' 'Does it matter?' etc.
One blogger, a Dutchman called Jurgen Appelo led me, via his assessment of the difference, led me to another of his posts this one on leaders v. rulers. In this he comments that:
"In his presentation Step Back from Chaos Jonathan Whitty (University of Queensland, Australia) shows that managers are often not the hubs in a social network. It's the informal leaders in a network through which most of the communication flows. It's the managers' job to make sure that leadership is cultivated, and that the emerging leaders are following the rules".
Living in the US it's easy to forget that there is a world beyond its borders. I was reminded of this when I was rebuked (but in a kindly way) about the lack of examples from non-US companies in the stuff I'm currently writing. So I started rummaging around the webisphere for lists of non-US companies and came across a very interesting one on global R & D spend by industry sector compiled by the UK Government
What struck me as I read down the names was how many were US companies and how few from other countries. It was tempting to start a full analysis of the list but I resisted and just did a quick scan. It seemed that Japanese companies were second in R & D spend, followed by Scandinavian countries - but maybe I'm wrong and it was EU countries in the third slot.
Yesterday, I was looking for Dave Urich's list of HR Competences (which I found) but in the process came across an article published this month in OD Practitioner, Vol 41, No. 4. Author, Gina Hinrichs in her article Organic Organization Design makes the point that traditional systems models and methods of organization design are based in industrial age concepts and thus are ill-suited for information or knowledge age concepts. This isn't a newly minted point but it does contribute to the adding stream of commentary on it. What I find interesting about it and similar articles is although there's a recognition that the information age ushers in a different paradigm the writing about it is still predominantly North American/western centric - maybe because the information age was ushered in by North American companies
All organizations have multiple external stakeholders: NGOs, the 'unvoiced' (think Amazon rainforest), customers, suppliers, governments, shareholders and so on. Rather that designing organizations from the perspective of the organization itself - how about designing it from the perspective of one of its stakeholder groups. What would an organization do differently or organize differently if it were thinking from a supplier perspective for example?
Shareholders are increasingly only one part of an organization's consideration. Financial value is important but so are other expressions of value. The "customer experience" is one, "care of the environment" is another. All organizations have the ability to create stakeholder value beyond financial. What stops them doing it?
Designing business to work with governments is something that Richard Haass talks about in a McKinsey Quarterly interview. Haass is president of the US Council on Foreign Relations and has written several books on the connections between government and business, including The Bureaucratic Entrepreneur: how to be effective in any unruly organization which is packed with ideas, references, and insights on getting things done in any organization where that seems an impossible dream.
Organization designs or redesigns are usually initiated by a leader or manager. Few are 'grass roots' or 'bottom up' led. Lots of reasons account for this: lack of decision making authority is one, a focus on that part of the work flow rather than a sense of the whole organization as a system is another - although it's often easy to see where blocks and duplications occur in relation to a specific job.
In the RSA Journal, Summer 2009, Seth Godin talks about Tribes - not too surprising since his new book is Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. But what is surprising is his contention that "The reason that every newspaper is going out of business is because the friction and barriers they used to rely on (trucks, printing plants, paper, etc) have switched from assets to enemies overnight. Because they relied on these physical entities, they never bothered to build a tribe, and they are being rapidly replaced by organizations that didn't have that luxury."
Need a good idea? The best approach seems to be to take time out, day dream, let your mind flow, and see what happens. Sitting at your office desk is not going to result in innovation. Or so the current wisdom goes. Neuroscientists working on insights suggest that insight occurs as an "act an act of cognitive deliberation transformed by accidental, serendipitous connections."
McKinsey Quarterly has a series of short, interactive, presentations entitled "Enduring Ideas" one of them is on the 7-S framework .introduced in the late 1970s. They describe it as a "watershed in thinking about organizational effectiveness" stating that previously the focus was on organization as structure - essentially a series of spans and layers - organized in a hierarchy.
Although the McKinsey view is that co-ordination became a critical factor in organization effectiveness (rather than structure) it is notable that 40 years later managers are still equating organization effectiveness with structure. Any design or re-design of an organization or business unit seems to start (in the manager's mind) with a rearrangement of the names in the boxes that feature on the organization chart.
Customer satisfaction is the almost unreachable goal of every organization. Designing in processes, systems, policies, and practices that are customer centric is a challenge as it is not always clear who the customer is i.e. who the design is 'for'.
However, making an assumption that "the customer" is an individual either using a product or service of the organization, or representing the person/group/organization that does then it becomes easier to design in customer centric-ness.
Purpose and values are at the core of well designed organizations. Most organizations purport to have a set of values. Sometimes these are evident only on wall plaques, laminated credit-card listings, and websites - they are not 'lived' in the day to day workplace. Sometimes the values are clearly there, in action (though they may not be written down anywhere). Take an organization like Patagonia whose mission is to
Build the best product, cause no unnecessary harm, use business to inspire and implement solutions to the environmental crisis.
Is it possible to design organizations as if they were experiences - which, of course they are? Nathan Shedroff in his books Experience Design 1.1 and Experience Design 2 suggests that there are at least six dimensions to experiences:
- sensorial and cognitive triggers
The NYT article today on 'land banking' - the strategic acquisition of land in advance of expanding urban development, and the holding on to it as long as possible to maximize profits - talks about how such pieces of land could be used for temporary public parks pending development. Apparently last Friday was Park(ing) Day and the article gives several examples of where this has happened.
PWC's report, published in 2008, Managing Tomorrow's People: the future of work to 2020 outlines three plausible future worlds of work - derived from two surveys a) of 6000 graduates b) of CEOs.
They describe these scenarios as:
• The blue world: where the big capitalist company rules - controlling people and trumping states
• The green world: where sustainability, concern for others and environmental issues drive the business agendas
• The orange world: where collaborative, specialized organizational networks dominate the economy.
The Roffey Park Institute has just published a report 'Best Practices in OD Evaluation'. In this case the OD stands for 'organization development', but the discussion and recommendations hold just as much water for organization design.
In organization design work there is often little appetite to evaluate the success of the redesign. Companies who employ an outside consultant to assist with getting to the new design and then implementing it are reluctant to invite the consultant back 6 months or a year later to see whether it is achieving the intended outcomes.
A year ago the Bureau of Labor Statistics released information on the employment of US workers aged 65 and over.
• Between 1977 and 2007, employment of workers 65 and over increased 101 percent, compared to a much smaller increase of 59 percent for total employment (16 and over).
Cisco's CEO, John Chambers, is taking the company into new forms of organization design. At least, according to an article published in The Economist on August 29. It describes the new design, which combines a functional structure with cross-functional groups, as
'an elaborate system of committees made up of managers from different functions. The job of most of these groups is to tackle new markets. "Councils" are in charge of markets that could reach $10 billion. For "boards" the number is $1 billion. Both are supported by "working groups", which are created as needed. There are about 50 boards and councils with some 750 members. Cisco has given up counting the working groups, because they come and go so quickly. '
Cisco was featured in a Fast Company article a year ago (September 2008) where the same design was discussed:
"The goal is to spread the company's leadership and decision making far wider than any big company has attempted before, to working groups that currently involve 500 executives. This move, Chambers says, reflects a new philosophy about how business can best work in a networked world.
Pull back the tent flaps and Cisco citizens are blogging, vlogging, and virtualizing, using social-networking tools that they've made themselves and that, in many cases, far exceed the capabilities of the commercially available wikis, YouTubes, and Facebooks created by the kids up the road in Palo Alto.
The bumpy part -- and the eye-opener -- is that the leaders of business units formerly competing for power and resources now share responsibility for one another's success. What used to be "me" is now "we." The goal is to get more products to market faster, and Chambers crows at the results. "The boards and councils have been able to innovate with tremendous speed. Fifteen minutes and one week to get a [business] plan that used to take six months!"
It's a bold experiment and one that traditionally designed organizations should be watching closely - far too many of them are timid about thinking differently about their organisation designs - they're willing to consider innovation in service delivery or product design but much less willing to consider (let alone adopt) anything that might upset established hierarchies, power balances, and practices.
The Tellus Institute (www.tellusinstitute.org) has put out a couple of papers on Corporate Design and Corporate Redesign. It's well worth a look at the Institute's website, not least because it offers six principles for corporate design aimed at altering the 'genetics' of the contemporary corporation to help meet the great societal challenges of the twenty-first century. The six principles are:
1. The purpose of the corporation is to harness private interests to serve the public interest.
2. Corporations shall accrue fair returns for shareholders, but not at the expense of the legitimate interests of other stakeholders.
3. Corporations shall operate sustainably, meeting the needs of the present generation without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs.
4. Corporations shall distribute their wealth equitably among those who contribute to its creation.
5. Corporations shall be governed in a manner that is participatory, transparent, ethical, and accountable.
6. Corporations shall not infringe on the right of natural persons to govern themselves, nor infringe on other universal human rights.
They are laudable principles. Now try engaging the various water companies in the application of these principles in their corporations. Read the article in Vanity Fair: The Rise of Big Water, http://www.vanityfair.com/politics/features/2007/05/bigwater200705?currentPage=1 or watch the movie Flow (www.flowthefilm). What are the steps between writing principles about designing organisations and actually redesigning them? Apparently it took 'a two-year multi stakeholder process', to develop the six sentences that form the principles. On that basis redesigning corporations will take us well beyond the point when there is any water on the planet. (Or is this unduly pessimistic?)
Going to a conference where everyone is an expert in the same topic is both useful and odd. Useful because I always learn something - a new tool, an interesting approach, and a different spin on the known. It's odd because it's a small world of people speaking a special language which seems to boundaryline their world in a way that excludes the value of diversity. Suppose a truck driver came to the conference - what would he/she get from it? What would organization design experts get from the truck driver? Does professional expertise lose opportunities by being exclusive?
From the Tellus Institute and Corporation 20/20 comes this fascinating report:
"Corporate Design: A new report that challenges conventional views regarding the purpose and structure of corporations, and proposes "corporate design" as a new framework for shaping 21st century business". Download it from http://www.summit2020.org/
There's a retail outlet called Sports Basement close by that's housed in what was previously a supermarket. What's fun is that the space has not been refurbished and all the supermarket signage remains. When I asked an assistant where I could find the running kit she replied 'It's over in Dairy'. The ski stuff is in Produce and so on. I like the idea that things can work well in unexpected circumstances. Maybe we're too quick to rip out and refurbish. There's probably value in new wine in old bottles as it were. Sports Basement is doing very well with it's distinctive culture and partnership structure. "Lots of places have rules about how stores are supposed to look, and scripts saying what employees are supposed to tell customers," said Tom Phillips, 40, a boyhood pal of Prosnitz, who brought sports, English and construction acumen to his status as a founding partner. "We want our people to use their brains on the floor, show some entrepreneurial spirit. We have very experienced artists and craft people working for us. It never stays flat. Our stores change around every week".
It's a good organization design that's working.
Organization design as Galbraith, Nadeler, and others looking at organization design from a business operations perspective have not traditionally included the physical space that people work in as contributing much to the delivery of the business strategy. Space configuration and physical environment is generally seen as part of the facility management responsibility. More often than not space is seen as a necessary cost not a way to positively invest in employee productivity, motivation, and morale.
However, there's a gradual shift going on and it seems that the connections between design/architecture and people's responses to it in a business setting are moving up the organization design agenda. Take a look at the work going on at the New School of Architecture and Design, Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture. http://www.newschoolarch.edu/
"The Academy of Neuroscience for Architecture supports studies, workshops, and university-based educational programs designed to explore research that "bridges" neuroscience with architecture. It is the first such institution in the world to link neuroscience, one of the newest frontiers of knowledge, with architecture, one of the oldest disciplines of human civilization."
Well a couple of days ago I got my Boston Marathon bib number. The training to run for it is taking all the time I might otherwise be devoting to getting this website up and running more effectively. The lesson is on trade-offs. Which is going to reap the most value in the short and long term as an investment? The same trade off applies in organization design work - are we designing for the short term or with an eye to the future? The common way is to do both - the difficulty then lies in doing both well. That's where I like concepts of 'good enough'.
Tomorrow I'm speaking at a conference on the relationship between globalization and nimble design of organizations. It's been difficult getting a slant on this as it's raised a number of questions in my mind. For example, are there specifics about responding to globalization that make for different 'nimbleness' design requirements than from non globalization? Isn't every organization actually responding to globalization even if it operates in its home markets only?
I'm starting to think about the curriculum for the 'Business Models and Stakeholders' course that I'm going to lead on the new CCA Design Strategy MBA. My module does not run until spring 2009 so there's planning time available. I'm thinking of having one session on the business models architectural firms use. On the basis that they are also designers. Philips might be another good business model to look at as they have a whole strategy around design of their products. It would be interesting to see if design, and design related companies have distinctive business models, and whether they approach their stakeholders in an identifiable way that's different from non-design oriented organizations.
It's an odd series of coincidences that yesterday I spoke with a friend, Emily, whose beloved singing teacher aged 80 died earlier this week of pancreatic cancer. Emily's response to this is to plan take up singing again - a passion that she's let lie fallow for several years. I then turned on a video someone had sent me on Randy Rausch http://video.stumbleupon.com/#p=ithct48cqw and discovered that he too has pancreatic cancer, and is living life to the fullest while he can. Just now, I got an email from another friend which told me her aunt has pancreatic cancer. Paula's now with her aunt arranging medical care in a situation where. "There are NO skilled beds at any price in the town where she lives". Out of curiosity I looked on the web to find out if the incidence of pancreatic cancer is increasing and came across the Pancreatic Cancer Action Network http://www.pancan.org/ and lo and behold, March 9 - 11 is pancreatic cancer advocacy weekend.
The stretch to an organization design slant on this might be a bit much but certainly there's a connection between having a change thrust upon one and doing something positive (with a resilient, resourceful, and adaptive mindset) to make the best of the situation.
Organizations that develop these types of cultural attributes are front runners e.g. Philips, IBM, GE.
At a client dinner last week someone asked me how he could 'make change stick'. I gave him a few answers like making sure all the organization elements were aligned and supporting the change, and that there were carrots and sticks in place. Then I started to think more about the question. Now it seems a tautology. Change cannot stick because it is changing. If change 'sticks' then it's not change. I think what he meant was how can he make sure that the organization doesn't revert to a previous state (though it wouldn't be exactly the same). I guess my more thought through answer would be by designing the organization so that change doesn't stick. To design in characteristics that keep it constantly alert, responsive, and adaptable - much more of the organic design approach than the mechanistic systems approach.
Today I got embroiled in a recurring conversation. One where my colleagues equate 'organization design' with 'structure' i.e. in most cases what is depicted on an organization chart. The message of all my writing and thinking is that 'structure' is only one element of an organization design. A well designed organization is th conscious harmonization of all the elements to produce the desired performance outcome. In my experience focusing on just one element rarely has the desired outcome effect.
Schipol Airport has a very effective design of its security screening. Travelers are asked to show their boarding passes and ID as they enter the airside area of the terminal - a very swift checking procedure.
When they reach the gate for their flight departure they are security screened there. Each gate has its own screen equipment and screeners. The line moves quickly and no-one is in danger of missing the flight because they are being screened as they line up to board.
Experiencing this approach recently it seemed a significantly more effective design than the one used at all other airports I've been to where the security screening is part of the process of getting into the airside area.
The people at the happy hour drink on Friday started discussing Facebook. What was fascinating was that the group of Millenials: those born between 1980 and 2000 (who all have a Facebook presence) were talking about the differences in the way they interact with it compared with the way their younger siblings do.
Among other things, they use it to find out more about people they are interviewing for potential positions within our company, and are relatively circumspect about what they post about themselves.
It's time I conquered my fear of Facebook and signed on/up/in. At a fund raising party I went to this evening (for one contingent of the San Francisco Carnaval) I discovered that the contingent uses Facebook for all its non face-to-face communication having set up a private community within Facebook (as I understand it - but I may be wrong on this).
I wonder how Facebook will impact the design of organizations? What value could it add if organizations embraced it rather than blocking access (as my own company did until forced to concede to the outrage).
It's interesting how design matters are percolating mainstream business thinking. Sooner than we think we'll be including discussions on the impacts of physical design in driving the business strategy - not only in terms of managing facilities costs but also in terms of reflecting organizational values, enhancing productivity, and so on.
Take a look at an MBA in Design Strategy launching later in 2008 at the California College of the Arts.
The innovative MBA in Design Strategy, which will enroll its first class of students in fall 2008, unites the studies of design, finance, and organizational management in a unique curriculum aimed at providing students with tools and strategies to address today's complex and interconnected market. The program's approach encompasses performance, strategy, innovation, and the encouragement of meaningful, sustainable social change.
Today was the day for the Chinese NY parade here in San Francisco. I noticed the San Francisco Chronicle headline this morning was that 'weather could disrupt the parade'. It was good to see a later report that 'rain can't stop the parade'. "Rats were king at the Chinese New Year Parade in San Francisco on Saturday night, as crowds of people turned out to celebrate the animal known for its witty, generous and cunning behavior. And rats are quick".
I was musing on the organization that goes on behind the scenes to design the 100 entries and 27 floats on the parade route. It appeared that hearing the weather forecast "Many participants have spent the last few days waterproofing their floats and costumes for the parade." I wonder if organizations have been categorized by their Chinese year characteristics? Maybe that's a topic for my next book. It seems that the parade designers took on the rat characteristics as they adapted plans to meet conditions.
Walking the labyrinth in the forecourt of Grace Cathedral was a new experience the other day. I then found the website for The Labyrinth Society (http://www.labyrinthsociety.org/) which has the statement "The labyrinth is an archetype of transformation. Its transcendant nature knows no boundaries, crossing time and cultures with ease. The labyrinth serves as a bridge from the mundane to the divine. It serves us well." I wonder whether a good organization design could emulate good labyrinth design becoming transformational. So much is written about business transformation and so few businesses seem to transform.
Daniel Pink's book "A whole new mind: why right brainers will rule the future" gives food for thought. The discussion on the six senses he thinks will become ascendant (not just in organizations) are design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. If he is right we're likely to see very differently designed organizations emerging.
Given that a great deal of my consulting work is about trying to help people in organizations break down/through the silos and talk with each other/run common processes and so on I was intrigued to read the sentence "The closer the connection between the parts, the more vulnerable the whole system becomes to any major wobbles."
The sentence appeared in the review of a book "Bound Together: How Traders, Preachers, Adventurers, and Warriors Shaped Globalisation", Nayan Chanda, Yale University Press; 391 pages; $27.50 and £16.99 (see Economist print edition July 28 - August 4 'The Early Pioneers'. http://www.economist.com/books/displaystory.cfm?story_id=9539888)
Reading this led me to wonder whether the current drive in many organizations to be boundaryless, silo free, and collaborative might have a range of downsides that lead to a weakening of the design: an image pops to mind of something on the lines of metal fatigue. It's a thought I'll bear in mind when I come to my next assignment where part of the design request is to become 'boundaryless'.
Someone gave me a copy of a delightful story called "Organizational Horseholding" http://www.sundance.ca/resources/documents/OrganizationalHorseHolding.April2006.pdf
It's a beautiful illustration of the types of sacred cows that organizations cling to and that can become real barriers to changing the design of the organization. The author of the piece, Chris Edgelow gives a couple of ideas on how to spot this type of sticking to an outdated practice: a) ask new hires to identify what they think might be a sacred cow b) watch for instances of trying to apply a solution that worked well in the past to a current problem.
Today two threads started to emerge. First someone mentioned to me John Maeda's book The Laws of Simplicity. (http://lawsofsimplicity.com/)
1 REDUCE The simplest way to achieve simplicity is through thoughtful reduction.
2 ORGANIZE Organization makes the system of many appear fewer.
3 TIME Savings in time feel like simplicity.
4 LEARN Knowledge makes everything simpler.
5 DIFFERENCES Simplicity and complexity need each other.
6 CONTEXT What lies in the periphery of simplicity is definitely not peripheral.
7 EMOTION More emotions are better than less.
8 TRUST In simplicity we trust.
9 FAILURE Some things can never be made simple.
10 THE ONE Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious, and adding the meaningful.
At first sight these seem to have relevance for organization design work so I'll get the book and explore further. I wonder how these fit with the Rotary Tests that I discovered yesterday?
Second I was teaching a class on organization structure and someone asked a question about the structure of holding companies vis a vis their operating companies. I was asked this question last week too. Maybe a topic people are getting interested in?
Today I read an article about a New River Valley entrepreneur, Bill Ellenbogen (www.nrvmagazine.com). He was asked what guides his business decisions and said it was the Rotary Four Way Test. "Of the things we think, say or do:
Is it the TRUTH?
Is it FAIR to all concerned?
Will it build GOODWILL and BETTER FRIENDSHIPS?
Will it be BENEFICIAL to all concerned?"
I'd not come across this test before but it seems an admirable one to bear in mind when doing organization design work - particularly with regard to communicating any projected changes in jobs (numbers and types).
I'm a week behind on my reading of the Economist so I've just caught up with the piece in the July 14th - 20th issue on the way BMW builds flexibility into its shift patterns 'for example extending shifts by 30 minutes, adding extra ones ...' and making 'liberal use' of temporary workers. (See: Back above the bar again.
Both points suggest organization design questions. For example: What impact does adding in extra shifts have on HR systems (like payroll and productivity). How do managers make the decision to put in an extra shift and what are the processes for doing so?
Managing temporary (and contract) workers is another thorny design issue. The answers to such questions on whether they should be included in training events, subsidised meals or other things that payroll staff get all affect motivation, productivity, and performance (of both the temporary workers and the permanent workers).