Culture in crisis 2. Two paths out of crisis

Jul 22nd

As organisations grapple with extraordinary conditions, many have turned to centralised decision-making, seeking tighter grip through command and control.

In the best cases this has meant clear and consistent messages across the workforce, showing much-needed confidence in leadership. In a crisis, people look to leaders to reduce the impact of loss of control, uncertainty and confusion.

In the worst cases, leadership teams and managers have withdrawn into a bunker, focusing on the single priority of survival. With no organisational leadership, anxiety and fear of the future escalates for employees, damaging productivity, energy and


Culture in crisis 1. Collaboration’s missing ingredient

Jul 14th

The structures of tasks, specialisation and accountability in the pre-Covid business went hand in hand with assumptions about location and physical footprint of the business. As these assumptions are forced to change, a new way of operating is emerging. Due to the demands of the Covid-19 crisis, new ways of working have sprung up with many more people working from home and in small, collaborative teams.

So, how to seize this new collaboration and make it as effective virtually as it is in person?

Collaboration: working together on a common goal has 4


Designing an organisation that works for the people in it

Mar 28th

How to judge an organisation design: Part 3
“How do you think people are going to take to the new design? How can we show the benefits to them?”

You have been understanding, testing, probing the org design to see if it stacks up, but you will also have been getting to grips with the people dimensions too. First thoughts may have been about the simple but difficult issues that are going to consume time in the future like filling new roles, redeployment, selection processes, the pipeline of talent, redundancies, the programme of change


Reality testing an organisation design

Mar 14th

How to judge an organisation design: Part 2
“I can see what you are trying to achieve with the organisation design.  I’ve got some questions to kick the tires on it a bit harder. Can we find time to talk?”

You probably knew that ‘organisation’ as a relatively modern word first meant the structure of a living being, a whole with interdependent parts. But did you know that ‘organisation’, ‘energy’, ‘work’ all come from the same root concept, over 4000 years ago, meaning ‘work’, ‘to do’, ‘be effective’? The organic metaphor for organisation is


What does organisation design set out to achieve?

Mar 01st

How to judge an organisation design: Part 1

“Welcome to the team. I’d appreciate your views on something straight away. Can you look over this org design? I’ve been thinking about if for some months. Let me know what you think and let’s talk about the questions you have. I’d like to take this to the management team in a couple of weeks”

Your boss/key internal client, accountable for an area of several hundred employees gives you a deck for an org design. Maybe it has introductory slides, an organisation design logic, a


The leadership balancing act

Oct 18th

A client asked me recently if I know any firms with high scores on leadership in their employee opinion survey. Their own leadership scores are stubbornly low and the Chief Executive was concerned.

I’m working with two firms that have recently moved the dial. They’ve done it through a strong and sustained focus on the importance of leadership across the business, active involvement by the Chief Executive and the top team themselves, and investment and effort in the leadership of the next tier.

Another firm is just starting to tackle the leadership behaviour required for the success of an


The human side of governance

Sep 29th

A lot of my work is involved with governance at the moment.   I’m advising a start up charity on their governance arrangements, I’m chairing a review of the governance of a financial services company,  and I’m now chair of the Trustee Board of a charity (the Shakespeare Schools Festival –  plug: come to our performances which see students from all sorts of backgrounds, many of them underprivileged, rise to the challenge of performing an abridged Shakespeare play in a professional theatre).

Three big questions come to me in all these areas.

First, how do we put the formal governance arrangements in place


Leaning into the future

Sep 22nd

I’m participating in my first MOOC run by MIT on Transforming Business, Society and Self and one of the interesting questions was why do we have ( or practice) leadership that collectively produces results that no one wants?

This applies as much to businesses and organizations as it does to society. So why do the results we get rarely match our visions and intentions? I’m hoping the collective wisdom of the MIT faculty and the 35,000 participants in the MOOC will give me some answers to try with clients. But in the meantime I wonder if it is to do with