We have come a long way. We have a long way to go. In between we are somewhere

Sometimes I read in newspapers people talking about their week.  Monday – this, Tuesday – that.  Here’s one of the week in the life of a travel blogger.  And sometimes I read about the Quantified Self movement where people measure and track every aspect of their daily life.  So, this week I thought I’d try a bit of sort of thing – triggered, in part by the question I’m attempting to answer each day (new year’s resolution!) ‘What did I learn today?’   Here’s some extracts from a working week, 15- 19 January, 2018, in the life of an organization designer.


Home from work, I finished the book 2312 by Kim Stanley Robinson. It’s packed with insights on how organizations, communities, and societies form, interact, die. That led me to thinking about sci-fi as a lead into org design, and I came across the article Using science fiction and fantasy to shape organizational futures which I now have and will be reading at some point this week.  I also have a list of all the music referenced in the book (a lot), and have started to play down it – I’m new to music in almost every form so that’s a learning.  As is the vast number of references he makes to philosophers, scientists, anthropologists and others – I found myself constantly reaching out to look things up.

This looking up included finding out about Reinhold Messner, a person I’ll mention in a talk I’m giving on bravery, and to whom Robinson attributed the quote ‘We have come a long way.  We have a long way to go.  In between we are somewhere.’ Which seems to me to be apt for anyone in organization design work.  I may adopt it as my motto.


We started to discuss developing a change sensitivity/heat map for the organization I am working with.  It would be on the lines of one generated by Just Giving.  We think it would be useful as there is a lot of change going on:  planned large scale change projects, smaller planned change projects, business area change – re-design, new process flow, etc., general day to day change as staff leave, join, take vacations, and so on.

Our plan is to develop an updateable visualization drawing on a range of data that could alert us to potential hotspots.  Currently we’re thinking of staff turnover, productivity drops/gains, sickness rate, project schedules, local change, additional activity that goes on e.g. mandatory training, and so on that will tell us where the volume of change may be causing stress and/or risks to business continuity. With this information we could take action.  For example, we could make changes to programme implementation scheduling, or reduce the change load.  We’re in early thinking on this.


We continued design work on the HR function.  There are numbers of interesting reports on new design for HR.  The one I found this week is HR with purpose: Future models of HR. ‘The report is based on research carried out by Professor Chris Brewster, Mark Swain and Dr Liz Houldsworth of Henley Business School, in collaboration with a number of other leading figures in the HR world.’  It’s interesting on the role of HR BP’s (see my last week’s blog) and offers lots to work on if you’re rethinking the HR function (and/or whether to have one).


I headed into a discussion on change immunity.  Is there such a thing?  I’m a bit sceptical as people are changing all the time – think new tech kit, for example –  but maybe not in the ways that ‘the organization’ would like.   However, I dug out my Kegan and Lahey book Immunity to Change: How to Overcome It and Unlock the Potential in Yourself and Your Organization, one of their articles, The Real Reason People Won’t Change and some handouts I have on the topic based on their book How the Way We Talk Can Change the Way We Work: Seven Languages for Transformation. 


This was a day of bouncing around ideas on digital transformation. It’s fascinating from a design perspective and challenges much of the traditional thinking on what an organization ‘is’ and how it operates.  It’s a whole territory for which I think we are ill-equipped in all sorts of skills, behaviours, systems, processes, policies and ethical codes.  We are not learning quickly enough to keep pace with the technology possibilities.  Read an interview with Jaron Lanier for some insights on this.   Or (back to Monday) read some of Kim Stanley Robinson’s sci-fi books and learn what we may need to learn.

Do you think science fiction can inform organization design?  Let me know.

Image: Infinity rooms