What do other organisations do?

Threaded through the books I've written are stories about how real organisations design and redesign. People like to read about exemplars, examples, comparators and case studies. The organisations I've discussed illustrate both what goes well in organisation design and why this might be so, and also what doesn't work and what can go wrong.

These examples of real organisations are what give the book a shelf life. A company that's an exemplar of good practice one year could take a terrible dive the next and vice versa. All of us writing about Volkswagen or Toyota have seen the highs and lows play out. This makes picking the organisations to mention in a book a bit of a gamble (unless I want to keep writing new editions or have a continuously updateable book).

I am about to write a third edition of one of my books, and the reviewers of the current edition have variously suggested that I illustrate points with more industry sectors, more types of organisation (private, public, partnership, etc.), more global organisations, more sizes of organisation, and fewer UK based one. That's quite a list to consider.

Previously I've taken rather a scattergun approach – finding the stories in the moment that I was writing the chapter. But this time I thought I'd be more systematic. So today I started to work on what organisations to talk about in order to cover the reviewers' (sensible) suggestions.

I began by looking at the industry sectors the big consultancies list their expertise in. KPMG has twenty-one while Bain has fourteen, and Accenture twelve. All of Deloitte's sites denied me access so I guess either their server was down or something else was going on. PWC has twenty-four industry sectors and McKinsey twenty-two.

I'm curious to know if the sectors they have in common – Financial Services (in Bain's case it's Banking), Healthcare, Energy/Oil and Gas, Technology, Telecommunications, Retail and Consumer Markets, and Public Sector – are most in need of consulting expertise and therefore examples of them could go into the 'what's not working category'. Or is it that as it appears that these sectors can pay for consultants the organisations must be doing well? Or is it that organisations in these sectors are constantly fluctuating between boom and bust and therefore always need consultants.

If all these views hold true I could concentrate my stories on these industry sectors as they represent a large proportion of the global workforce. (See infographic for 2010 UK figures).

However, varying stories by industry sector is not enough to meet the reviewers' suggestions. To appeal to a wide practitioner audience I'll have to talk about the various types of ownership. This is a pretty interesting area as new forms are beginning to show. For example, the Economist notes that:

Other corporate organisations are on the rise. Family companies have a new lease of life. Business people are experimenting with "hybrids" that tap into public markets while remaining closely held. Astute investors … specialise in buying public companies and running them like private ones, with lean staffing and a focus on the long term.

But the most interesting alternative to public companies is a new breed of high-potential startups that go by exotic names such as unicorns and gazelles.

Reading a bit further on in that piece I get the idea that by concentrating on the newer organisational types I can cover the other reviewer suggestions – globalness, organisation size and fewer UK examples – all in one go:

New companies also exploit new technology, which enables them to go global without being big themselves. Startups used to face difficult choices about when to invest in large and lumpy assets such as property and computer systems. Today they can expand very fast by buying in services as and when they need them. They can incorporate online for a few hundred dollars, raise money from crowdsourcing sites such as Kickstarter, hire programmers from Upwork, rent computer-processing power from Amazon, find manufacturers on Alibaba, arrange payments systems at Square, and immediately set about conquering the world.

But, sadly, that isn't going to work. It's not a big proportion of the workforce that works in these types of organisation: I have to balance stories of new organisations with stories of more traditional ones. But the day's research has been a good start.

For the seven sectors mentioned above what organisations would you like to see stories of in the book and why? Let me know.

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