What we do
We work with both the planned and the unplanned sides of organisational life. We work collaboratively to create open, listening climates where people can bring in their voices. We pool our and our clients' analytical thinking and intuitive common sense to find practical, creative solutions people can work with.
Everything we do involves learning and change and broadly falls into three areas:
Every organisation has an explicit task or job to do. How well it can do this depends on the dynamics that emerge as people interact every day, enabling and constraining each other. We are often asked to help change dynamics that are getting in the way of achieving goals.
We usually start by mapping the system we are working with, the goals of what we are looking to achieve, people’s roles and what is helping and getting in the way of achieving goals. There are often different views on these. Our normal response to differences is trying to persuade, dismiss or attack them. We introduce the systems-centered method of functional subgrouping to interrupt this and instead to listen to the information in the differences to make more effective decisions. Our overall goal is to build a climate where it is possible to reduce whatever is getting in the way of achieving goals.
Recent organisational change work
The company wanted to improve its product development process. We worked over a period of twelve months with an internal OD consultant to develop a cohort of internal coaches and to help the product developers take up their roles more effectively.
We ran off-sites to introduce the coaches and product developers to the Systems-Centered notions of Role, Goal and Context to take up roles effectively; the SAVI (System for Analysing Verbal Interaction) communications tool to improve problem-solving; the force-field as a way of diagnosing what’s helping and what’s getting in the way of achieving goals; the map of phases of team development to identify which behaviours are likely to help and which to get in the way of achieving goals; functional sub-grouping as a way of integrating differences; and emotional intelligence to use the information in both thinking and feeling to make better decisions.
As a result of the work, the product developers from different areas started working together as a team across the organisation. They identified ways to improve a key part of the product development process. The board sponsor said the project had ‘made my year’.
The context was a division of a large public sector organisation where staff were finding it hard to match the workload to the resources available, satisfaction was low and sick-leave was increasing. The client initially asked us to research best-practice and write a report telling them what to do. From experience, we believed this approach was unlikely to bring about any change.
We took a systems-oriented approach and involved the division in identifying the issues and coming up with potential solutions.
The overall goal of the project was to achieve a better match between resources and workload.
We started by: clarifying with the division the context of the wider organisation, the role and goals of the division and how these lined up with those of the organisation; working with the division and the wider organisation to identify what was helping and getting in the way of achieving these goals; making sense of this and exploring the implications with the senior management and wider division; coaching the senior management and the wider team to listen to their differences so they could use the information to problem-solve; identifying options for change; choosing what to do; and getting commitment to implement changes.
Twelve months later we did an evaluation of the impact with the team. Overall the initiative improved the division’s productivity, effectiveness and satisfaction by at least 8%.