Ten questions

Most Tuesdays, work permitting, I take a writing class at my local adult education centre.  The first part of the class is a 20 minute or so writing assignment.   Although I didn’t make the class last Tuesday (work commitment) Paul, the tutor, sent me the task.

Based on The Guardian’s Q & A in which ‘Public figures supply the answers to our searching questions’, Paul sent a list of 18 questions with the instruction: ‘Answer 10 of the questions with single sentences and then pick one to write on it for 10 mins.’

Thinking about the assignment, I realised that each week, at the end of my blog, I ask a question.  So, rather than using Paul’s list, I decided I would take 18 of my questions and, as instructed, answer 10 of them with a single sentence, then pick one of them – one of the 10, I think, but he’s not here to clarify that – to write about for 10 minutes.  Paul is very strict on timekeeping and we all obediently stop writing when he calls time, so I’ll do the same.  (Normally I spend at least twice as much time looking at interesting links as I do writing.)

I decided to take the first eighteen weeks of 2018 – which took me to Mid-May – and use those questions.  (If you want to look at the related blog, go to my website and filter by month/year).   I’ll answer 10 of them with one sentence.  Here goes – I’ve listed the 18 and put my chosen ten in bold, with my answers in italics:

  1. What organization design knowledge do you think is provisional?  I’m not sure we have organisation design ‘knowledge’ only theories, practices, assumptions, and methods.
  2. What’s your view on gratitude as a business capability?
  3. What masterclasses would you offer organization designers?
  4. Do you think science fiction can inform organization design?(There’s another sci-fi question a couples of weeks later so I’ve omitted the second one).  Yes, definitely and it should as it offers the prospect of states beyond those we typically imagine in an organisational setting.
  5. What’s your view on the HR BP role?
  6. What’s your view on hostile design?I think there’s an unfortunate tendency for organisation designers to be ‘servants of power’ rather than ‘owners of power’ which in many cases does result in hostile design.
  7. Do you think employees need to share organizational values?No, I did think that at one time, but I have changed my views on organisational values which often times are not adhered to even by those who promulgated them in the first instance.
  8. What toolkits are in your [OD] toolkit?
  9. What are you making sense of this week? I’m trying to work out how we can measure the additive impact, if any, of planned change on people’s normal day to day workload.
  10. How would you assess the degree of complexity in a business function and what is manageable for one Director?
  11. What do you think you can expect as you move from an internal to an external OD & D consulting role? (Or vice versa) A very different power dynamic – an internal consultant, regardless of expertise, can only influence while an external consultant – also regardless of expertise – is viewed as authoritative and worth paying attention to.
  12. What are your project do-ability criteria? My main criterion is to have a very good project manager working with me, because without one the whole piece of OD work could easily remain at the design stage and never make it into implementation.
  13. Do you think that the outcomes of OD & D work can be identified and then converted into useful proxy measures to show ROI? Yes, I’m sure they can and I’m still not sure quite how to do that –  it’s something that I’m still working on.
  14. What are your OD sacred cows?
  15. What’s your view of business v digital transformation?
  16. How would you, or are you, bridging the academic/practitioner organization design gap to help ensure elegant organization design?
  17. Do you think advancing technologies will impact organisation design? Yes and we are already seeing that both in the way we ‘do’ organisation design and in the way organisation designs are changing.
  18. It’s very easy to ‘unsee’.  It is less easy to stop unseeing, but I think to stop unseeing is a skill to be practiced. What’s your viewing on unseeing and stopping unseeing? Unseeing is not noticing what is happening in the context and being alert to the possibilities, challenges, opportunities, understanding that really seeing would offer – too much of organisational life is blinkered by assumptions and legacy.

Now I get 10 minutes to write on one of them and I’ll put the links in afterwards.  It’s 15.03 timer is set!   The question of hostile design is one that becomes increasingly relevant as working contracts change and technology encroaches more and more deeply into the design of organisations.   Take a look at the gig economy,  zero hours contracts, employees having microchip implants (albeit voluntarily at this stage), and human job roles being superseded by automated processes. One of our design dilemmas is how to work with the increasingly complex tech/human interface.

In the CIPD workshop I facilitated last week, I posed 4 scenarios (thank you Paul Levy for letting me use them) one of which was ‘organisation designers working in a world where they are facilitating cyborgs, developing implanted employees, meeting inside the matrix and led by robotic leaders’.  This may sound far fetched today but we see the seeds of it already e.g. in cyborgs , implanted employees, and robo work-allocators.  Tech can feel/be hostile to people – look at the twitter trolls where the tech is mediating the hostility, but this doesn’t have to be the case. How do we design organisations that manage the tech human interface in a way that values the humans?

Ok – that’s 10 minutes of pure writing.  Now I’m going to go back and put in links to some of the points in the 10 minutes worth.

If you were given this list of 18 questions which one would you choose to spend 10 minutes writing on?  Let me know.

Image Just Questions 10, Mark Fearn