Successful organisations come in all shapes and sizes, but tend to have some recurring characteristics:
- Attitudes to business risk and learning are adventurous, with simple controls rather than complex formal systems.
- They link business performance to knowledge and learning, not ‘big-company’ systems.
- They have long-term visions that are striking in their clarity, but not necessarily supported by a great deal of short-term planning or forecasting.
- They use a few simple but balanced key performance indicators covering more than just bottom-line profit.
- They build a strong sense of community and belonging, but not necessarily a ‘soft’ culture.
- They are ‘high-energy’, with a climate of enthusiasm for what they do and a focus on the future.
- Their culture and structure are geared towards the individual, not systems and processes.
- Authority and accountability tend to lie with competent people, not qualifications or job titles.
- They abhor bureaucracy.
- They have a strong customer focus, and rely heavily on customer contact and dialogue for knowledge and learning about market trends, future requirements, and potential problems.
- They have difficulty replacing key personnel and matching new recruits to the company culture.
Much of my recent work has centred on a non-linear model of continuous organisational development developed with my friend Annette Brooks-Rooney, and based around the metaphor of the möbius (a surface with only one side, only one boundary component, and a half-twist).
Situational change in organisations depends for success on transitions in individuals. People have behavioural preferences but they are capable of changing their behaviour at strategic points in the organisation change journey.
The möbius never ends. Organisations and individuals need continuously to scan the internal and external environment. Organisational standards (including behaviour) need to change with organisational goals.
And the most difficult ‘twist’ in the möbius is always between the organisation and its people…
I have already developed successful tools to diagnose organisations’ current status and help them navigate the möbius.