Business and digital transformation

There’s something in the power of three that is a call for action.  In this case to do something about three questions I got more or less together on ‘transformation’ Well, not quite together.  The first one I got almost a month ago and did nothing about, but yesterday two more arrived thus invoking the power of three.

The first one was: ‘Do you have any good links to Business Transformation Programmes reading or anything you’re doing that would serve as an intro.  I think it will be recommended that we buy in some consultancy but my instinct is we can probably do it ourselves with selected support?’

Yesterday, I got: ‘What’s the difference between digital transformation and business transformation?’

Also, yesterday (from a completely different source) came: ‘We are currently doing a strategy/org design project for the IT function of a pharma company. We are not finding relevant/compelling org design/operating models to help them move to the next level as the company takes baby steps towards digital transformation. Any suggestions or sources for such information?’

Before launching into a response, I looked to see if I’ve written about transformation before.  Yes, five times – the first time was in 2010:

I scanned what I’d written to see if I still agreed with my past self or not, and what links and info I could glean from those blogs on the three questions.  In re-reading these I felt as if between 2010 and now the ‘transformation’ field has risen to bandwagon status but may almost be at its peak. I’ve just seen the first article (probably of many) explaining ‘Why so many digital high-profile digital transformations fail‘.

In one way it seemed redundant to write another blog on the topic but I’ve found that there’s always a learning or development of ideas in the thinking/writing process and in a way, I can hardly avoid transformation.

I’m writing this in Dubai.  It’s an immersive transformation experience.  Every time I come I see the city transforming.  The latest new thing is the Dubai Frame – an edifice/experience showing a glossy version of the past, present and future of this transformation  from desert village to global player in 50 years.  A quick look at the Smart Dubai website or skim of the World Economic Forum article, ‘How digital technology is transforming Dubai’ gives a feel for the scale of the transformation ambition.

In this city of transformation, I’m wondering whether there’s any agreed organizational definition of ‘transformation’.  What do people mean by the term – what is the common ground on its usage?  Scott Anthony, in an HBR article, has a good stab at answering this.  He describes transformation as:

  • operational – doing what you are currently doing, better, faster, or cheaper
  • core – doing what you are currently doing in a fundamentally different way
  • strategic – ‘This is transformation with a capital “T” because it involves changing the very essence of a company. Liquid to gas, lead to gold’

As he points out ‘Defining what leaders mean when they drop the word transformation matters, because these different classes of efforts need to be measured and managed in vastly different ways.’

For my first questioner – the one who asked for an intro to business transformation a good intro step would be to have the discussion on what leaders mean by the word.  Once they’ve agreed, then some choices can be made on whether to proceed with support from external consultants or on a DIY basis (or mix of both).

The second question was ‘what’s the difference between digital transformation and business transformation?’  Jaret Chiles comes up with a suggestion that met with approval from the group I’m working with this week. He suggests that:

  • Business transformation encompasses the cultural shift and business processes driven by changing market demands; i.e., the company’s culture of change and business drivers.
  • Digital transformation encompasses the tools and processes implemented to support business transformation; i.e., applications.

Confusingly though, some organisation’s use put ‘digital’ and ‘business’ together to form the phrase ‘Digital Business Transformation’.  IMD a management school, for example, has a Global Center for Digital Business Transformation and a report from Deloitte that caught my eye ‘Strategy, not Technology, Drives Digital Transformation’ – partly because I believe this should be the case, but often isn’t –  has a section in it titled The Culture of Digital Business Transformation.   Maybe putting Digital+ Business together is right in the cases where businesses are transforming through the application of digital technology.

The third question was about operating models for digital transformation.  Operating models are another much discussed topic but a series of 6 articles on Digital Transformation from Insead Knowledge helps by starting with discussing a 10-point framework (operating model?) for digital transformation.   Alongside the framework comes a recommendation for describing it the process as a digital ‘journey’ and not a digital ‘transformation’, again a hint that the word ‘transformation’ has had its management-speak day.  (Other articles in the series include resistance to digital change, culture and supporting structures).

What’s your view of business v digital transformation – where would you point people wanting an intro to business transformation or a digital operating model?  Let me know.

Image: Palm Jumeirah, and the World, Dubai

Hands across the divide

Weeks ago, Jim sent me three questions that he’s posing to various organization design/development practitioners and some leaders he knows.

  • What is the involvement – ideal and actual – of your most senior leaders in the organisation design work you carry out?
  • What conceptual and practical understanding of organisation should they really have in order to make the right contribution?
  • How would you typify the level and content of the understanding they do have – and how do you try to equip/help them to make the contribution they should?

I haven’t yet got around to answering them, but they suddenly leapt back into mind when I was on a recent call with some members of the Organization Design Community (ODC) where we were discussing three topics.

  • The challenge of the bridge between academics and practitioners
  • The new world of organization design
  • The practical aspects of bridging the gaps between academics and practitioners

I then got a suggestion from someone else that an organization design programme I’m involved with go through the ODC Accreditation process.  Looking at the requirements for this, I learned that:

‘To receive ODC accreditation, a provider’s design course or workshop must meet a set of requirements. These requirements have been jointly developed by leading academics and professionals in the field of organization design. Twenty-two minimum core requirements are contained in three categories:

  • Design Concepts and Principles
  • Design Types
  • Redesign and Change

My first thought was that twenty-two is a lot of ‘minimum core requirements’ but I let that pass as I’m practicing with a meditation tape that tells me ‘it may be a thought, but you don’t have to think it’.

I moved onto other thoughts which I did begin to think – they revolve around Jim’s questions, the ODC conversation, and the accreditation requirements.  What the three have in common are some reflections and questions around the relationship between theoretical concepts and practical application of organization design, and who needs to know what in order to make an effective, informed and value-add contribution to organization design work.

My experience of working with leaders is that, for the most part, they are very impatient with, not to say dismissive of, anything that smacks of theory or academia.  When leaders do organization design work it is still largely based on fiddling around with an organization chart, moving people and reporting lines with little to no reference to design concepts/theories.  (I got a terrific sketch the other day of the ‘make it like this’ variety.  I’m tempted to put it as the image for this blog but won’t).

Happily, I’ve met a few exceptions to this type of leader – usually they’re people who’ve taken courses in organization behaviour or similar, and equally happily I’ve met other leaders who start off with a ‘make it like this’ mindset but are willing to be curious to learn why lines and boxes are not ‘design’ and taking the lines and boxes approach is very unlikely to result in the outcomes they are looking for.

Done thoughtfully, with a knowledge of systems, complexity and behavioural theory, organization design is ‘the ultimate edge … is so critical that it should be on the agenda (along with a professional designer) of every meeting in every single department’ says Tom Peters, (co-author of In Search of Excellence) He goes on to say that ‘Design, like lifestyle, is one of the few differentiating factors, and companies that ignore the power of elegant and functional design will lose.’

Elegant design is not the result of adjusting an organization chart or looking purely in terms of ‘structures’.  It is the result of line-managers and OD consultants – who might be internal or external to the organization:

  • understanding what people on the ODC phone discussion called ‘the framing theories and related skills’ for organization design. (These framing theories and related skills come from academic research).
  • interpreting and converting the framing theories and related skills from a theoretical, research perspective and language to practical and pragmatic design tools and frameworks
  • applying these skilfully and thoughtfully into on the ground organization design work
  • working with academics to refine the theories and develop new theory from careful evaluation of the outcomes of the original thinking.

Making this happen in practice is the challenge.  Here are four ways of joining hands across the divide between academics and business people to the mutual benefit of both.

1.  University research departments partner with an organisation or organisations to conduct research on a specific topic. This could be initiated either way through a ‘call for participation’.  I have done this successfully on three occasions. For example, I commissioned one of the pieces of work described in When the Bases of Social Hierarchy Collide: Power Without Status Drives Interpersonal Conflict 

2.  Someone in each business organization could be the named co-ordinator of relevant research, its dissemination, and its practical application.  I haven’t yet worked in any large organization where there is a comprehensive database of employees taking academic programmes or a method of capturing the dissertations they do and assessing their value in terms of extending or applying their research.  Doing this could result in  cadre high value-add scholar-practitioners developing in the  organization.  See To wear many different hats: how do scholar-practitioners span boundaries between academia and practice?

3. Academics and line managers could work together to discuss how the theoretical research can be converted into practical application and what organizational issues would benefit from research and theory development. This could happen on executive programmes, for example, as one of the activities or learning sessions.  This was a suggestion made on the ODC phone call.

4.  Academics could take their own work and develop it into to a practical tool for application. For example Andrew Sturdy, and Nick Wylie wrote an academic paper Transformers, enforcers, specialists and independents which aimed to ‘identify, describe and evaluate the different ways in which formal collective change agency is structured in specialist units inside 25 diverse organisations.’

The theoretical framing of the paper is based on and developed from Sturdy et al’s earlier research work, see for example Management as Consultancy and Beneath and Beyond Organizational Change Management: Exploring Alternatives

From their paper (Transformers … ) Sturdy and Wylie developed a very short, practical, ‘how to’ guide – Managing Change without the use of external consultants: how to organize consultant managers.  It’s easy to grasp but grounded in theory.  I’m using it as a discussion tool with line managers and executive teams as we consider establishing a change function.

How would you, or are you, bridging the academic/practitioner organization design gap to help ensure elegant organization design?   Let me know.

Image  Hands Across the Divid© Copyright zoocreative and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons Licence

Organization design: the hot topic

I am speaking at a conference in Shanghai and Beijing, in May and have just been developing my presentation ‘Organisation Design: the hot topic’.

The conference is about the research, science and technologies that are changing organisations and the organisers have asked that my piece focus on the new technologies including AI, robotics and data tools and their impact on organization designs.

Most obvious is the view, typified in an article that ‘Every aspect of human life—our food, our work, our intimate interactions, our DNA itself—is, or will soon be, mediated by the technology we embrace. Machines can now recognize speech and written text; images will be next. Algorithms know your face, and the faces of millions of your fellow citizens. They can infer, with increasing accuracy, a person’s income, mental health, gender, creditworthiness, personality, feelings, and more from public data.’  This means what for organisation design?  Three questions stand out:

  • What is the  effect on jobs?
  • How do we protect employee/individual privacy as AI spreads?
  • What is the effect of AI on our competitiveness/competitive position?

It is not good enough to provide the answers to all three as: ‘it depends’ or ‘we don’t know’.  But this is, in fact, the case – look at the optimism v pessimism view of technology in the Zuckerberg (optimist)  v Musk (pessimist) discussion.

As one writer notes, ‘Leading a company in the years ahead is sure to be more challenging than at any time in living memory. AI will require bosses to rethink how they structure departments, whether they should build strategic technologies internally or trust outside firms to deliver them, whether they can attract the technical talent they need, what they owe their employees and how they should balance their strategic interests with workers’ privacy. Just as the internet felled some bosses, those who do not invest in AI early to ensure they will keep their firm’s competitive edge will flounder.’

Putting you on the spot.  What is your view of this description?

‘This is the local office of [US company] Humanyze … Its employees mill around an office full of sunlight and computers, as well as beacons that track their location and interactions. Everyone is wearing an ID badge the size of a credit card and the depth of a book of matches. It contains a microphone that picks up whether they are talking to one another; Bluetooth and infrared sensors to monitor where they are; and an accelerometer to record when they move. … The technology will allow the company to gauge their employees’ productivity and accuracy. JD.com, the Chinese e-commerce firm, is starting to experiment with tracking which teams and managers are the most efficient, and using algorithms to predict attrition among workers.’

Whether you are optimistic or pessimistic you can instantly see that there is an effect on jobs, privacy, and competitive position

Take the jobs angle first.  There are three organisation design aspects of this:

  1. Monitoring how employees are doing their jobs to increase productivity and control performance could mean designing jobs that focus on these two aspects at the expense of innovation, job autonomy, engagement, and social interaction.
  2. Replacing employees with automation that does the job instead of humans could result in fewer jobs being available to working age people, However, as the McKinsey Global Institute finds, ‘the extent to which these technologies displace workers will depend on the pace of their development and adoption, economic growth, and growth in demand for work. Even as it causes declines in some occupations, automation will change many more—60 percent of occupations have at least 30 percent of constituent work activities that could be automated. It will also create new occupations that do not exist today, much as technologies of the past have done.’ Either way – more, fewer, different jobs will result in different organisation designs.  (See also MIT’s Every study we could find on what automation will do to jobs, in one chart)
  3. Helping humans develop the new skills needed to work in a technology mediated society.  Here McKinsey says ‘Our scenarios suggest that by 2030, 75 million to 375 million workers (3 to 14 percent of the global workforce) will need to switch occupational categories. Moreover, all workers will need to adapt, as their occupations evolve alongside increasingly capable machines. Some of that adaptation will require higher educational attainment, or spending more time on activities that require social and emotional skills, creativity, high-level cognitive capabilities and other skills relatively hard to automate’.  Again, it is easy to see the job and organisation design implications of this statement as ‘right people, right place, right time’ take on new dimensions and urgency.  It also raises a question about who finances new skills development.  (See also the March 2018 OECD Report Automation, Skills Use and Training)

Additionally, the short Humanyze scenario above shows that we should all be concerned about indiviual/employee privacy and the ethics of surveillance in the workplace (and elsewhere).   This aspect of organisation design is moving up the agenda.  Many European organisations are redesigning business units and work functions to enable compliance with the GDPR (data privacy) requirements that come into force in May 2018.

On the AI competitiveness question, one writer suggests that ‘in the years ahead AI might contribute to the rise of monopolies in industries outside the tech sector where there used to be dynamic markets, eventually stifling innovation and consumer choice. Big firms that adopt AI early on will get ever bigger, attracting more customers, saving costs and offering lower prices. Such firms may also reinvest any extra profits from this source, ensuring that they stay ahead of rivals. Smaller companies could find themselves left behind.’  For organisation designers this could mean redesigning organisations to stay competitive – perhaps through forming consortiums, co-operatives or alliances that transform insular hierarchies into collaborative networks that collectively compete with any impending monopolies.

How do you think advancing technologies will impact organisation design? What are you doing about it?  Let me know.

Image: The technological citizen

Pointed sticks

A friend of mine is a volunteer at one of the UK’s National Trust houses.  He goes each Wednesday and is one of the ‘outdoor team’.  That team is rather scornful of the ‘indoor team’, who apparently spend their day polishing.  The outdoor team does real things.   Last week he made 27 pointed sticks.

That’s the first time in over two years of his volunteering that I’ve heard of a day making pointed sticks.  I instantly thought of the Monty Python sketch which I thought was about pointed sticks but on re-listening turns out to be more concerned with Self Defence Against Fresh Fruit although pointed sticks get a couple of mentions. Maybe he was making pointed sticks so visitors to the National Trust home could defend themselves against the apples grown in the orchard there.  I got curious about pointed sticks.

This began to feel like a day in my working life.  I’m trying to find out what the problem (or opportunity) is and it’s not that easy.   I almost leapt into assumptions.

Assumption 1: He was making pointed sticks.  This must be for defence or some kind of territorial impulse or wish to achieve advantage over someone else or for a re-enactment battle.   I thought it a bit like the ‘sharp elbows’ that described the Ford culture, among others.  Although, I didn’t go quite as far as thinking that the outdoor team was defending themselves against the indoor team – perhaps armed with spray polish – but it did occur to me.

Assumption 2: The pointed stick activity was a self-contained, bounded activity.  There were no handover points or decisions or delegated authorities from/to other parts of the process.

However, I recognised I might be making assumptions and reverted to questions– open, naturally, in the best consultant mode.  I discovered that the pointed sticks were part of a larger process.   I asked him if he could tell me where his activity was in the process and what happened on each side of his bit.

However, he was only really clear about his own role. Make pointed sticks.   He vaguely knew that other members of the outdoor team were bundling up sticks, while a further team was liaising with the Environment Agency.   But he didn’t know what for.   He had an idea it was about erosion and the river banks.  I noted the lack of clarity and common, shared purpose that is the hallmark of high performance working and left it there for the moment.

He went into a riff on how difficult it was to make pointed sticks without the proper equipment.  This is a story I have heard many times as I investigate work processes – people are trying to do things without the right equipment and/or information.   In his case, he had to improvise, show initiative, and do a workaround.   His first attempt was with a surform (too blunt), second with an axe (not easy to manipulate), third with a handsaw (no benchsaw available).  He stuck with the last telling me the issues with this solution and how a ‘giant pencil sharpener’ would have been the ideal tool for the job.

I enjoyed this story of his finding his own solution.   It told me that his manager recognises the value of empowering people.   She just wanted the job done, she was outcomes focused.  In fact, she rewarded him with the accolade ‘You’re my man’, when he showed her his work.   It also confirmed my view that the person who does the job knows what is needed to do it well.

However, requesting or suggesting that the ‘higher ups’ get a giant pencil sharpener wasn’t an option – volunteers aren’t part of the pay-roll so, like contractors and contingent workers, don’t have an organisational voice although they contribute to the organisation.    He could put his idea into the suggestion scheme, but these schemes don’t have a high success rate.

Unfortunately, the lack of proper equipment meant that he didn’t reach his target of 48 pointed sticks during his shift.  But, again his manager was understanding and said she would give the remainder of the task to the volunteer coming the following day.  (Incidentally,  he didn’t know why the target was 48).

Worth noting was that the manager recognised that not having the right equipment is costly.  It’s regrettable that all too frequently organisational budgeting processes sacrifice up front investing for paying far more than the investment price later.

As my friend pointed out, having a bandsaw (or giant pencil sharpener) would have meant he could have done all 48 pointed sticks in a tenth of the time it took him to craft 27.  It would have freed him up for other, perhaps higher value, work.  Of course, he’d have to have the skills and capabilities for other work.  Automating a worker’s task does not mean that the worker involved can be deployed on something else.

Realising I wouldn’t get the whole story, or even the process flow, with interdependencies, handoffs, and decision points from him and curious about ‘why pointed sticks’ I went off to find out more from the clues that I had.  Sensemaking is a necessary skill for organisation designers to practice.

A short trawl around the internet told me that the people bundling sticks were making ‘fascines’ and the pointed sticks were to anchor the fascines along the river banks to prevent erosion.   The Environment Agency is helping organisations that are having issues with water flow, learn about and implement natural and sustainable water flow control .   My curiosity satisfied I asked him what next week’s task was.  It’s ramps for cygnets.

What are you making sense of this week?  Let me know.

Image: Brushwood fascines

Internal and external OD & D consulting

A friend has just asked me what she can expect moving from being an internal to being an external consultant in the field of organisation development and design (OD & D) and how she should prepare herself for the move.

It’s too easy to look at two-column tables that highlight the differences.  I have one from Gary McLean’s book Organization Development: Principles, Processes, Performance . This tells me, for example that internal consultants ‘know the organisational culture better than an external can ever know it’ while external consultants ‘do not have pre-knowledge of the organisational culture, so do not enter the process with any preconceived notions.’   And, ‘[Internal consultants] have relationships established that can get cooperation more quickly’, while external consultants are ‘Often given more respect by insiders because they are not known except by reputation’.  You can see another table adapted from Field Guide to Consulting and Organizational Development here.

At first glance these differentiations look ok but take a more critical look and you’ll see several assumptions around the statements. For example, can we safely assume that external consultants do not come to an organisation with preconceived notions?

Additionally, the lists appear binary – know the culture/don’t know the culture.  In terms of giving support to someone making the transition from internal to external consulting, the statements are not that useful. They are superficial observations not actionable insights that would help my friend get to grips with a different take on what is often perceived to be a similar role.  Consultancy.UK, for example, states, ‘An internal consultant is, at first glance, just like an external consultant: a professional that is hired to solve an organisational problem and implement the solutions in order to improve the performance of an organisation.’

More importantly these types of comparisons don’t address how:

  1. Theories and approaches to OD & D are evolving
  2. Changes are being made to way the OD & D is being ‘done’ in organisations (assuming it is ‘do-able’ see last week’s blog)
  3. The evolution of theories of OD & D and the way it is done has a consequential impact on the role of internal and external OD & D consultants and the relationships and interdependencies they are part of

O & D is about changing aspects or the whole organisation.  As Sturdy and Wylie find ‘change has become normalised or business as usual in many contexts’ and, to paraphrase, that rationalist theories that suggest that ‘change’ is a ‘thing’ amenable to linear, planned and structured approaches, is shifting towards theories that change is complex, ‘fragmented and incoherent’.

This evolution is leading to thinking that OD & D is less of specialist/expert capability and more of a generic leadership/management capability,  or even a whole organisation one which is ‘dispersed and decentred’ in a number of ways including through various individuals, formal teams and informal groups.

If OD & D consultants are to migrate from structured approaches e.g. Appreciative Inquiry’s four step model of discovery, dream, design, destiny/deliver, and if OD & D is becoming accepted as both a management capability and an organisational capability then what does that mean for the expert OD & D consultant?

It means thinking about a different ‘offer’.  This is a challenge to management consultancy in general, as managers become less commanders, and more consultants themselves.  McKinsey, for example, is one consulting company changing its offer.  It ‘is targeting medium-sized companies, which would not have been able to afford its fees, by offering shorter projects with smaller “startup-sized” teams. As it chases growth, the firm is also doing things it used to eschew as being insufficiently glamorous. In 2010 it moved into business restructuring and it has also set up a global strategy “implementation” practice. That is a far cry from the days when its consultants stuck mainly to blue-sky thoughts in their ivory towers.’

This shifting landscape me wondering what I can tell my friend to expect as she moves from internal to external OD & D consulting.   Some thoughts:

  • On the whole context shift that I outlined above she can expect to have to keep a close watch on organisations she is interested in a see how their approach to hiring and using external consultants is changing, although for this she’d have to have access to insider knowledge.
  • She can expect to have to keep her own skills honed as the theories and practices of OD & D change.  I wrote on this topic in 2014 and re-reading the piece I can see an update is necessary as skills required have moved on since then.
  • As OD & D becomes a capability reliant less on individual expertise and more on collective capability she can expect to act more as a coach, mentor and support to managers (assuming her knowledge is current or even in the vanguard of thinking).
  • In terms of her own job satisfaction she can expect to feel a range of emotions that are different from those she might have felt as an internal consultant.  There’s the financial insecurity, the worry about business development, and the isolation if you go-it-alone.  These types of downsides are balanced against the autonomy to accept or reject work, the ability to develop skills and experience by working with a variety of organisations, and the opportunity to meet and build relationships with more people than you typically meet as an internal consultant.

What do you think she can expect as she moves from an internal to an external OD & D consulting role?  Let me know.

Image:  Henry Moore, Upright Internal External Form

Organization design: a toolkit of toolkits

Need a tool?  Look in the toolkit?  But which toolkit and which tool?  I’m often scrambling around looking for exactly the right tool for the piece of work that I’m engaged in.  I’ve got a very extensive toolkit myself garnered over the years.   At some point I’m going to categorise and order them so I don’t have such difficulty locating them when I’m looking.  I know I have them somewhere.  I’d like a virtual pegboard with the painted-on outline of the tool, so I can easily spot which ones are missing from their peg.

I also have a number of off-the-shelf toolkits: do-it-yourself starter kits as it were.  Here are ten of them with brief notes. Each one is free and downloadable.   I’m not specifically recommending one over the other.  Like any off-the -shelf pack they all have some useful bits and some that you may not use but come as part of the kit.   (See also my blog ‘Skateboards and Speedbumps’)

1              Virtual crash course in design thinking. This is a Stanford D-school, 90 minute  online version with video, handouts, and facilitation tips.  It goes step by step through the process of facilitating a design challenge.  I first used it with a group of 30 to redesign our organisational room booking system.  People loved the interactivity and the fact that they were able to collectively redesign the system from a user perspective in ways that we can take forward.

2              Brains, Behaviour, and Design toolkit   Someone told me about this toolkit around 5 years ago and I’ve used elements of it in many workshops. It’s billed as ‘five tools to help designers apply findings from the field of behavioral economics to their practice in order to provide a head start on framing research as well as developing new strategies for solving user problems.’ The tool I use most frequently – and have used it this week – is the one on Losses and Gains.  It’s really helpful in situations where people’s only focus is on their loss of something in a situation – for example, their own desk if we’re moving to hot-desking.  Having a discussion on what they might gain gives another perspective.

3              The Iriss toolkit has been designed to support people to consider community and societal issues particularly in health and social care.  But don’t be put off if you’re not in that sector.  It’s got a wide range of tools that are easily adaptable to other contexts.  The D-Cards (Difficulties, decisions, deliberations) tool comprises nine ‘think’ cards for planning and preparing for difficult discussions, and 13 ‘activity’ cards which present methods that can be done in a group. ‘The cards explain what the process is, it’s purpose, how to engage in this process and what we thought did and did not work when engaging in this process.’

4              IDEO Human Centered Design Toolkit You can download a free pdf of the design kit by signing up.  I downloaded mine several years ago (mine is second edition) and haven’t checked if the one currently available for download is the same as that or not.  However, mine is in three chunky sections:  hear, deliver, create, each with instructions, methods and case studies.  I’ve found the the P.O.I.N.T. technique useful.  In this you translate problems and needs identified in storytelling (one of the methods) into insights (also a method) and Themes. P = Problems, O = Obstacles, I = Insights, N = Needs,T = Themes

5              NHS Developing Together OD Toolkit – in this toolkit OD means organisational development.  It’s extensive, well-written and practical, without neglecting the theory.   It takes as a start-point that OD is “an interdisciplinary and primarily behavioural science approach that draws from fields such as organisation behaviour, management, business, psychology, sociology, anthropology, economics, education, counselling and public administration”.   This makes it a complement to the organisation design approach.  It’s well worth browsing though and I like all the additional references that it lists.

6              Frog Design Collective Action Toolkit.  This is lovely toolkit – well designed and presented.  It ‘uses an action map with activities arranged into six areas. All you need is motivation and enthusiasm to get started.’  Each of the six action areas has a number of immediately practical tools.  One group I worked with had great fun with the ‘Knowledge Hunt’ tool which asked them to ‘Find out what your team already knows about your group’s challenge— and what else you’d like to learn.’  It led to lively discussion, a lot of learning and several avenues to explore further.

7             DPSA Guide and Toolkit on Organization Design.  This is one from the Government of South Africa and is good for people looking for an organisation design phased methodology focused on structures.  It’s very detailed with 290 pages each phase described by process, tools and execution.  It’s got 76 excellent tools categorised by design phase, plus some helpful ‘Decision Points’  e.g. Decision point 1 ‘Is it a structural problem?’.

8            State Government Victoria, Organisational Design: an ideas source book.  This is another government’s guide to Org Design.  It takes a different tack from South Africa’s in that it is not as prescriptive and instructional, rather, saying ‘the publication has been developed to provide information, insights and advice that may be useful for organisational leaders working in any public organisation and thinking about adopting or abandoning any type of design’.  It’s an ‘ideas sourcebook’.  Striking (and welcome) is the statement ‘The fact is that there is an increasing number of organisational forms that cannot be simply illustrated by an organisational chart.’

9           Mind Lab Methods Cards This is a set of cards presenting Mind Lab’s ‘most used methods for policy and iterative design processes’.   The one on cultural probes is useful for gaining insight into ‘aspects of peoples’ daily lives, attitudes and values that do not emerge from traditional interviews’.  This is helpful in organisation design work when we are trying to work out the ‘say-do’ disconnects that pepper organisational life and that are part of the current design whether acknowledged or not.

10         Design Thinking Bootleg this, like the Virtual Crash Course mentioned above, is also from the Stanford D-school. It is ‘more of a cook book than a text book, and more of a constant work-in-progress than a polished and permanent piece.’ That said it is a good resource for some tools not commonly used, but that I’ve found are helpful, in organisation design work, like ‘Powers of Ten’ and ‘Why, How Laddering’.

11       Others I use which are also free and downloadable: HRBP Organization Design Toolkit ,  Good work ToolkitKelly Sears Organization Design Toolkit

What toolkits are in your toolkit?  Let me know.


Since writing the above I have found ‘The Nesta DIY Toolkit [that] has been especially designed for development practitioners to invent, adopt or adapt ideas that can deliver better results.’  And theSystems Thinking Toolkit‘ from FSG.

 

Image: Estate sale tools

Organisation design masterclasses

One of the frequently asked questions I get is about organisation design training.  Where to get it, what it’s about, is it accredited and various similar things.  I’ve written about it before,  but it seems timely to add a bit more to the topic, especially as I’ve been asked to facilitate a series of organisation design masterclasses.

I paused for a moment as I typed the word ‘masterclasses’ wondering if it is a gender-neutral word or is there some equivalent that is more politically correct if it is not gender neutral?

The pause extended somewhat as read a few things on the topic of gendered language – some of it completely incomprehensible e.g. this extract from Feminist Visual Culture:  ‘It is about the language of public critique, where there is a Deleuzian libidinal economy at work which values the process of reaching different plateau in design, in contrast to the prevailing emphasis on the orgasmic end-product, or what Akis Didaskalou has called the ejaculatory mode of the design masterclass.’

I’m fairly certain that the design masterclasses I facilitate will not be in the ‘ejaculatory mode’ but …

Moving on.  We’re planning a series of seven two-hour sessions (I’m now avoiding the word ‘masterclass’ just in case) that build on the foundation of a two-day overview of organisation design of the sort many providers run.  (See the CIPD one here).   Each session is designed to take a closer look at a specific aspect design work, building more knowledge on an area that is usually only touched on in a foundational course.  Here are the topics.

1: Skills development for organisation designers

Organisation design is about understanding how people, processes, work, and culture interact within and across organisational boundaries.  Much of this interaction is mediated though technologies including social media, automated processes, and robotics.  This session looks at three skills and knowledge areas – design thinking, data analysis and interpretation, behavioural science  – that organisation designers should develop to help them design with these complex interactions in mind.  (We’ve assumed some systems theory knowledge).

2: Designing across organisational boundaries

As organisations becoming interdependent – through supply chains, contractual agreements, technology platforms – it becomes harder and harder to know where the boundaries of an organisation are.   Design work must, as Rob Cross notes, ‘be virtually continuous and requires the ongoing creation of direction, alignment, and commitment within and across organisational boundaries.’  This session explores organisational boundaries:  the technology of organisational network mapping, using data to see patterns of interactions, and identifying the business processes that cross organisational boundaries.  Being able to ‘see’ workflows in operation leads to better design and design outcomes.

3: Networks and why we need to think about them

Organisations comprise numbers of different networks of people both formal and informal.  These networks are not visible in a standard organisation chart but their health or ill-health are critical to organisational operation.  This session discusses the social networks found in organisations and proposes that organisation designers need insights into network theory as applied to social systems in order to understand and improve the organisation’s design.   Participants will learn how to apply these insights into their work.

4:  Self-managing teams their design and organisational value

Changes in social structures, access to information, technologies, and other factors are challenging traditional organisational hierarchies, based on hierarchical leader power and authority.  Self-managing teams are increasingly being seen in organisation.   This session examines what they are, how they work and the reasons for introducing (or not) self managing teams into an organisation design or redesign.

 5: Designing and redesigning culture

It is hard to know whether culture can be changed by conscious design, or whether it can only be nudged, or shaped by design work.  This session looks at the question ‘Can culture be designed?’ And, if so, what aspects of it to focus on.  Should it be the behavioural aspects – language, norms, values, and practices more commonly associated with organisation development, or should it be the business processes, systems, policies, and rules, related to the formal organisational architecture, or should it be both?   Participants will look at the various ‘levels’ of culture: organisation, business unit, and day-to- day and consider six conditions that foster the likelihood of designed culture change succeeding:

 6:  Developing credibility

External organisation design consultants are commissioned to work on design projects largely because organisational leaders feel they do not have the internal capability to deliver the work.  Thus external consultants come to an organisation already credible and perceived to have expertise.  However, internal organisation design consultants, often have to earn credibility, in order to be commissioned either to do the work, or work as equal partners with external consultants.  This session offers some techniques and insights to help develop credibility.

7: Organisation design toolkit

Any craft requires the tools of the trade, and organisation design is no different.  There are a bewildering number of models, approaches, inventories, diagnostics, ‘canvases’ and assessments.  Additionally, these are available for myriad different ‘audiences’ – leaders, executive teams, board members, managers, supervisors, front-line staff, and others.  The difficulty for a practitioner is knowing what tool to choose for the purpose in hand, and then how to apply it in order to get a successful outcome.  In this session there will be opportunity to review a number of tools, skim some useful resources, and learn how to build a personal toolkit.

What masterclasses would you offer organization designers?  Let me know.

Image: Masterclass icon