The second edition

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.

4. Increasing involvement of architecture and design firms in the application of their world's design principles into the world of business operations and organization. This confluence of two disciplines is intriguing and perplexing, giving rise to questions like 'Should can HR compete or collaborate with real estate?' 'At what point do facilities and HR mesh?' 'How relevant is space design to business performance?' 'What can the two disciplines learn from each other?'

5. Building steam for creating better work life balance coming particularly from people in their 20s and 30s in the US and Europe. The introduction of flexible working, family friendly policies, remote and virtual working all contribute to organizations having to take another look at the way they operate their people processes.

6. Emerging tensions around competition as companies seek to extend their range into new areas – both geographic and products/services. This gives rise to all manner of cultural and internal competition

7. Changing global demographics that are leading to high youth unemployment and an increasing trend towards people over 65 staying in the workforce.

8. Heightening skills shortages in specific disciplines – engineering and computer sciences in the US and Europe, for example.

9. Developing understanding of networks, 'organized complexity', neuro-science , and biology that are changing the way we think about organizations. Moving us away from thinking of them less as bounded systems, and more as complex, adaptive organisms.

10. Advancing product technologies that are changing the jobs landscape – many jobs previously done by humans are being done by robots, or by other technologies: self-checkout in supermarkets is an example, digital wallets are on the way and both are human job replacements.

To my mind these phenomenally fast moving changes require three things from organizational leaders

  • To think very differently about the way their organizations are structured: a growing number are thinking of their enterprises as networks with dependencies and interrelationships rather than fixed hierarchical bounded structures.
  • To create a flexible, agile, adaptive, sustainable organization: one that continues to perform well and provide decent work (as defined by the ILO)
  • To seek expert support in creating and maintaining this type of responsive organization and not feel they can go it alone. Design work is not for the layman as findings from a survey done in 2012 found. It reported that about half of surveyed organisations viewed their organisation design as only moderately successful, and none of them viewed themselves as very successful at organisation design. (This nugget comes from an interesting piece of happening as a collaboration between the University of Westminster Business School and Concentra, email Mair Powell on: if you would like more information)

This is where the second edition of the book comes in. Its primary purpose is to:

  • Provide the tools and techniques to enable HR/OD professionals to develop confidence and competence in organisation design (and development)

Its secondary purposes are to:

  • Give line managers an overview of the design process, their role in it, and what support they can expect from their HR/OD colleagues
  • Suggest how HR/OD and the line can work most effectively together on design projects
  • Provide insights into ways of handling the kind of on-going change that all enterprises face and often find troublesome

I'm taking this approach as I see from facilitating organization design courses that HR/OD professionals need the skills and technical expertise to guide, coach, and support line managers through organization design and development. It is clear that capability in this respect is now a 'must have' one. A 2012 quote from a local government line manager illustrates.

In a context of increased pressure on resources within the governmental institutions (10-15% of staff cuts over 5 years in average) the current mainstream message within these institutions is that staff need to "do more with less". We of course all understand that this is difficult to achieve and may lead employees to being in unbearable situations. Organizational design and development is therefore becoming central as we look for new ways of working, being together, learning to do better differently and finding the way to make the "less that is actually more".

It's also notable that three things have occurred, since the first edition of this book, to help HR/OD staff develop their organization design and development competence:

a) The UK's Chartered Institute for Personnel and Development (CIPD) has added organization design to its HR Profession Map, requiring demonstrated competence in this discipline from HR Practitioners. The CIPD is now offering certification in organization design and several universities are including organization design as a module in their HR programs.

b) The US based Organization Design Forum has opened chapters in both Europe and the Middle East/Africa. And other chapters are planned.

c) Software programs have been developed (and it is highly likely that more are in the works) that take a 'big data' approach to organization design drawing on an organization's multiple data sets to facilitate organization design visualization, scenario planning and delivery

So what I'm doing is extensively updating the original book in the light of the context outlined above and grounding it in a further eight years of my own experience of:

  • Consulting with organizations of all sectors, sizes and business models, on their design issues
  • Leading public and tailored organization design programs in Africa, China, US, Europe, and UK
  • Writing and researching in the field.

Reflection on what I've learned during that period five things stand out that help guide me in my work:
1. Unless you are clear on what the design is for (what it is supposed to do) you don't stand a chance of delivering something that works
2. There is no one right way for doing organisation design
3. Even using a systematic approach organisation design is an evolving iterative process which usually feels messy and complicated
4. Faced with design options take the one that makes most sense at the time
5. The design you come up with is not one which will last forever (or even for very long)

I'm planning for the book to be practical and pragmatic, systematic but flexible. It will be more of a 'how to' guide than a textbook so it won't be academic or theoretical although sometimes I'll give way and mention theory or research to clarify or illustrate. I'm thinking that each chapter will be organized in the following sequence:

  • What you will learn: the purpose and outcomes of the chapter
  • Input on the chapter topic: discussion, information, interspersed with reflective questions
  • Where people go wrong: the pitfalls in this point in the design process
  • Tips for getting it right: how to avoid the pitfalls and make this stage of the process work
  • Tool: something that will help you in your organization design practice
  • Summary: the key points covered in the chapter

I'd love to hear whether this is the sort of book you'd be interested in reading and if you have any ideas on what specific topics you'd like to see covered.