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Organisation Development

Changes from Within in Difficult Times

Changes from Within in Difficult Times


The types of businesses we are, the way we do business, the way people work and the technologies available to use are continually changing. colorful-chameleon

We have moved from managing traditional co-located teams of people, to talents working virtually all over the world.  Businesses can create and innovate from multiple locations, and start-ups use facilities like, virtual working software, Voice over IP, Teleconferencing…. to leverage economies of geography.  Their agility makes it possible for small David like Business Models, to battle slower moving Goliath’s.

The Goliath’s are trying to gain more flexibility and change organisations to be able to compete.  Organisations have more diverse stakeholder groups, more exposure with social media, more global coverage tapping into emerging economies.  Organisations are trying to make there business fit not only today’s needs, but tomorrow.

So how do we even start to look at doing that?:

  1. Look at agile competitors and start-ups, as well as larger ones.  However, it is not possible to copy and paste.  It has to be the right custom fit for the organisation.  It may not be right for you but at least be aware of smaller player, which can now scale quickly in todays world.
  2. Engage with your employees and managers with what working environment would benefit the organisation now and in the future.  This could be a working group.
  3. Scan for technologies, and practices available.
  4. Understand what would work in your organisation.  This will probably not be a one - time thing.  For some, it may be a cultural change that happens in phases.  So understand the end game.
  5. Define the TO BE and what steps need to be taken.  These steps are not just technology, physical placement of offices, people’s mind-sets and culture.
  6. Design and build that change with great communication, and culture change plans.
  7. Keep revisiting what you need to be as an organisation.  Challenging yourself on: what could destroy us now?  What are the agile competitions doing, or able to do that we can’t.
  8. Try to also stimulate innovation from within.

Some of these practices may make you more agile yourself, being able to be more effective.

Be a business chameleon.


Globalisation – The East Re-financing the West Some Thoughts for OD

Globalisation – The East Re-financing the West Some Thoughts for OD


Back when I was consulting it was all about the BRIC economies.   We outsourced like hell to get economies of scale.  Business Process Outsourcing continues to attempt to make things seemingly cheaper.  There has been mixed success with some of these business models.  Where the models flopped the key flaw was the integration of people into the process, and misunderstanding of culture.  To realise the ROI many companies have to tackle this issue. Companies like Nespresso have bucked the trend with manufacturing in Switzerland.  Switzerland is not a cheap place to base manufacturing, but the quality, consistency and productivity has been factored into the business case. Those tiny little capsules of premium coffee lock the customer in, and they are happy to pay £4.80 a pack.  In 2010 they sold 6.5bn capsules according to Bloomberg.  The luxury at home coffee market is estimated to be worth £8bn, and Nespresso is still in double-digit growth but now competition is fierce.

Before we speculate on some implications for OD professional, it is important to note the new trend.  Those countries that the West naively outsourced to do the manufacturing of the whole product (eeek) or components, and non-strategic fulfilment of the processes, are quickly becoming serious technological contenders.  For example, take Tata Steel and Mittal Steel who bought Corus and Arcelor two of the EU’s biggest steel companies.  Our political leaders like David Cameron are going cap in hand to the Chinese for help.  The west is losing dominance of its own markets.  At the same time China and India have the two biggest markets of their own.  China sold a million cars per month in January and February 2010!  There is yet again a seismic shift.

This is a game changer, for those companies and countries that want to continue to be global players.

It is Europe who is dependent on the IMF for funds, as apposed to emerging economies.  It is China who has been the major investor in Africa £7billion in 2006, which is not yet tapped for its natural resources!   Sub –Saharan Africa is growing with a GDP of 5% or more between 1995 and 2005.  The recession cut growth, but the world bank expects it to return to 4.5% in 2010.  The projected GDP for Africa 2020 is 2.6 trillion and 18.6 trillion in 2050!  If China is the backer here then much like Britain built its empire, these are the foundations for the future wealth.

GDP Africa

The political forces are aware of this change.  For example, the US congress blocked the $18.5 billion purchase of Unocal by the 70% state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation.  China has liquidity.  Its cash reserves are the equivalent of 40% GDP an estimated £3.3 trillion! Watch this space!

So what does this mean for OD professionals?

  • We need local leaders, and local talent for the game changers in BRIC but with the new countries, Russia and Africa.  Goldman Sachs and economist Jim O’Neil defined the next 11 (N11) emerging countries and CIVETS outlined by Robert Ward: Columbia, Indonesia, Vietnam, Egypt, Turkey and South Africa.  To overcome the cultural issues, understand and innovate in that market.
  • Global leaders may need a different skillset, flexibility and awareness.  Check out a post on learning Chinese.
  • Do not just think about efficiencies of outsourcing to the East, we now need to think in reverse, and in-between.  We need people that can understand and leverage the benefits of Re-financing.  What can Corus gain from Tata and visa versa to be a more effective global player?  Are their parts of the process that are now better suited in the West?

What Companies Could Learn From School

What Companies Could Learn From School


At school I used to get to the playground early “Play” British Bulldog (a childhood game in English Schools).  “Learn” by challenging concepts and applying techniques in lessons, before going home to watch Neighbours, do “Homework” and then hang out with friends. Play

My first boss in Switzerland said he wanted someone who delivered but also knew how to have fun.  There is a need to have fun, play and explore the environment, product, industry and people that we work with in order to grow.  Too often we get into work, turn our email on, only to see an extortionate amount of unopened messages, and embark on our day.  What if we did things differently?  What if we had activities that enabled exploration?  This could be as small as hanging out to have coffee together, playing cards, hackathons what is important is that the activity needs to be culturally relevant.

Now the obvious challenge is where would the time come from.  I have seen so much time being spent in organisations on things that are no longer needed, or non-value adding.   The challenge is to break the status quo, question their value and where they are not productive stop the task.   Not many organisations do this.  If we were to give ourselves more time back we could get into a more productive cycle that moves us away from myopic to macro thinking.  Secondly it does not have to be a liner activity, so it could happen at any time of the day.


At school we learnt across a variety of subjects, which bred entrepreneurship, innovation and development.  We too often put people into a Job Description.  I have many passions, and skill sets and not just for the one that I no work in.  There should be more sharing across functions, and jobs should be able to be multi faceted.  I would even go as far to say that your employees should be able to wear a customer, competitor and or CEO hat on regular sessions.  This would stimulate their brain on customer requirements, being competitive, thinking what could destroy the company and generate solutions.  This environment to create and challenge employees seems to be easier in start-ups, but there is a need to develop this way of thinking in more traditional organisations.  Google allow 20% of time for an employee to develop on a project of their choice, why is this a rare facet for a company?


This is not to take work home.  Past school age we have acquired responsibilities: children, families, hobbies and a life!  What homework does require is a passion to reflect. If employees are passionate about what they do, then have a mindset to reflect and think what can I do to improve it, which often can feed back into playtime.

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