Back from the Organization Design Forum Conference

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?

Corporate Design for the 21st Century

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


Sports Basement

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.

Book list for business models and stakeholders

The CCA Design and Strategy MBA is getting ready to go. It's a new program starting September at the CCA and I'm teaching the Business Models and Stakeholders module. Last week I was asked what books I would like the library to buy (not textbooks). Here's the list as it currently stands:

Bhagwati, Jagdish. (2007). In Defense of Globalization. Oxford University Press

Egan, Gerard. (1994). Working the Shadow Side. Jossey Bass

Freedman, Edward, R. et al. (2007). Managing for Stakeholders: Survival, Reputation, and Success. Yale University Press

Ghemawat, Pankaj. (2007). Redefining Global Strategy: Crossing Borders in a World Where Differences Still Matter. Harvard Business Press

Heskett, J. (2005). A Very Short Introduction to Design. Oxford University Press

Klein, G. (1999). Sources of Power. MIT Press

Meyerson, Debra, E. (2003). Tempered Radicals: How Everyday Leaders Inspire Change at Work

Morgan, Gareth. (1996). Images of Organization. Sage Publication.

Nadler, D. et al (2005). Building Better Boards: A Blueprint for Effective Governance. Jossey Bass

Phillips, R. (2003). Stakeholder Theory and Organizational Ethics. Berrett-Koehler

Pink, Daniel, H. (2005). A Whole New Mind. The Berkeley Publishing Group

Seely-Brown, J. and Duguid, P. (2002). The Social Life of Information. Harvard Business School Press

Senge, Peter, M. et al. (1999). The Dance of Change: The Challenges to Sustaining Momentum in Learning Organizations. Currency

Stanford, N. (2005). Organization Design the Collaborative Approach. Elsevier

Stanford, N. (2007). The Economist Guide to Organisation Design. Profile Books

Tennent, J. and Friend, G. (2005). The Economist Guide to Business Modelling. Profile Books

Weick, Karl, E. (2000). Making Sense of the Organization. Wiley

Architecture and neuroscience

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.

"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."

Boston Marathon

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'.

Global nimbleness

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?