Methodology - how do organisations work?


Our aim is to listen and assist where possible in understanding the strengths and weaknesses of an organisation. We cannot change any organisation, that change has to come from within.

Understand the organisation, the people and the issues. Maximise the strengths and minimise the weaknesses change for the better not just for the sake of change.

Step one: Understand the organisation. All organisations are different but most have grown organically from an original idea or purpose. It is rare that the growth in the early stages is planned, or if it is, that the result matches the plan. Once an organisation is "established", planning can be more focussed as the strengths and weaknesses of the organisation should now be clearer. Frequently this later stage of planning, probably because of the pressures of survival, focuses on specific aspects such as sales and marketing or sometimes just product improvement. This is understandable as these probably appear to be the important areas at the time. Standing back is difficult for anyone in the midst of running a company and it takes either a crisis or a third party to enable a broader, more rounded overview.

Step two: Identify issues. The first point of interest here, is probably what the owner/leader(s) really wants to achieve. In most organisations this "purpose" is what drives the company. Here purpose does not mean "mission statement" although there may be connections. Getting at the real reason why someone runs or leads an organisation can be hard and sometimes painful - but it needs to be done. Without the leader leading, little will or can happen. Identifying the normal organisational problems and needs is far simpler.

The next area to look at is probably the employees - talking to employees helps, asking what the organisation can do for them is even better. Letting employees decide is better still - but needs care, obviously. Next up is customers (clients, users, consumers etc). Again the simple thing is to ask. Talk to customers, ask what is good and bad about the relationship - engage with the end user, they know better than anyone what works and what doesn't.

Then there are the suppliers. Does the organisation look after its suppliers? Does that sound a strange question? Shouldn't they be looking after you, the customer? Well, yes, of course but this is a relationship, and as in any healthy relationship, each side looks after the other.

Finally there is the rest of the world. How does the organisation fit in to the grand scheme of things? What is its impact locally and globally? How responsible and responsive is the organisation to environmental concerns?

Step three: Find the bright spots. Almost any organisation has people or systems that are effective and some that are not so effective. It can certainly pay to focus on what works. Try to find out what really works and build on it.

Step four: Survey (any remaining) areas of concern. Hopefully, after the previous steps, what needs to be addressed and what can be addressed, should now be a bit clearer. If step three works well then other issue may resolve themselves.
Carefully crafted questionnaires can help but nothing beats discussing any remaining issues with the "stakeholders". The people affected will undoubtedly have a view on what needs to change. If the stakeholders are also "engaged" and "aligned" with the purpose of the organisation then the clues to resolution should be that much clearer.

Step five: Plan of action, how to fix stuff. If steps one, two and three were successful the actions that need to be taken and the route to improvement should be relatively straightforward. Here it is worth understanding what really motivates people. Research Open in new window has shown that three basic concepts motivate people - Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose.

Step six: Metrics; Has it worked? Closely tied in with the previous steps should be the consideration of how the effectiveness of any steps taken are measured.

Step seven: Lather, rinse and repeat. Even if all problems seem to have disappeared - which is unlikely, at least on the first iteration - it can do no harm to run through this process at regular intervals - stuff happens.

The principles of SMART Open in new window might be helpful.

  • Specific – Focus on a specific issue.
  • Measurable – Ensure some way of measuring "success".
  • Assignable/Achievable – Make sure that it can be achieved and that you have the person or people to achieve it.
  • Realistic – Be realistic about what can be achieved.
  • Time-related – and when.


Our goal is to help an organisation become:

An organisation that the leader (or leaders) is proud of, and wants to lead.

A place where the workers want to work.

A seller that customers want to buy from.

A buyer that the suppliers want to supply.

An organisation that the community want to have in its midst.

Not forgetting that there needs to be some fun in the mix!

As I say elsewhere; the best person, in the best job, enjoying working in the best organisation - what could be a better start?

Contact William to explore these ideas.