Organisation- what makes yours tick?

If Premier Crew work with you, the first thing we need to get to grips with is "what is the organisation's purpose?"

You may have a mission statement or just a mantra but does it really work and do your employees or colleagues understand how it affects them and how they affect it?

Visualization is a very useful tool for understanding complexity. Ask your employees to draw a quick picture of what they think the organisation does. Ask management to do the same and then compare the results. Do they match your purpose? John Ashton of CrackerJack Visual Thinking Open in new window "creates engaging images that start conversations" - they can be quite enlightening; below is an example of some of CrackerJack's work.


Crackerjack graphic


Listen to John's interview for Blog Talk Radio


Visualisation is a powerful tool for seeing how concepts and relationships mesh together. It has been used by many large companies Open in new window to facilitate meetings, presentations and improve understanding of business concepts and structures.

David McCandless demonstrates how powerful visualisation can be in his TED talk: The beauty of data visualization.
In this talk he points out how much information we receive visually by comparing the various senses with compute bandwidth. In the image below the large blue area is visual and the small white area in the bottom right is the amount of total information we are actually consciously aware of.

Visual Thinking




Unique Selling Point (USP)

Do your really know what your unique selling point is? What sets you apart from your competitors? Asking your customers what they like most about your product is a good start. Knowing your competitors strengths is useful too, if possible. Try asking your employees, because they may have insights that you have missed. Make a list of possible USPs and write a short, punchy phrase to highlight each possibility; this may help isolate the one that is has the most impact. This is closely connect with but not the same as your "purpose".

Key points:

  • What features are unique about your product or service?
  • What specific need does your product or service satisfy?
  • What aspects of your product or service is difficult for your competitors to imitate.
  • For each aspect write a short, clear, and concise statement.
  • Try to answer the customer's question: "What's in it for me?"

Organisational structure

Traditional business practices struggle to handle the increasing pace of change, which can have a profound impact. Top-down management can stifle innovation and growth. Above all it is inefficient.

In an interview with Stowe Boyd Open in new window (self-confessed Postfuturist, researcher-at-large, iconoclast) Esko Kilpi outlines the changing management landscape Open in new window in a clear and rational way.

Customers, suppliers and employees are becoming more aware and informed. The Internet and social media are a factor but expectations are rising generally. To meet these challenges business practices need to change too.

A good place to start is with employees and co-workers. Any organisation's workforce are a major asset and probably a huge untapped potential - how can this potential be realised and harnessed?

As Engagement is for employees; Agile is a current organisation buzz-word. This concept originally came from the IT industry, where speed, reliability and functionality (not to mention profit) are paramount and where complexity is the norm. It can be defined as a process "in which solutions evolve through collaboration between self-organising, cross-functional teams". Other sectors have increasingly embraced this methodology.

Michael Hugos Open in new window has identified 5 characteristics of Agile organisations.

  1. Transparency: Vital because Agility starts when everyone in a company knows what’s happening. Transparency breeds trust.
  2. Entrepreneurial employees: Peer group review among entrepreneurial employees provides far more motivation and guidance than individual performance reports ever could.
  3. Participatory senior executives: Who focus on the essentials, take care of their people, don't micromanage and actively create an environment for middle managers and employees to succeed.
  4. A Networked Structure: A networked organisation structure allows decentralized decision making and more freedom of action for autonomous business units.
  5. Financial Fluency: Management and staff are trained to read balance sheets and income statements, and get access to regularly updated reports. This allows them to size up situations and determine which ones are worth pursuing and which ones are not.


Read the original Agile manifesto on Wikipedia Open in new window and consider how it might apply (perhaps in a slightly modified way) to your organisation.

GCHQ (yes that GCHQ) recently won the Spark The Change award Open in new window for their innovative "management" style which could be seen as one step up from Agile.

Maybe a more fundamental question is - Do we really need managers? Listen to Radio 4 In Business Open in new window .

There has been much written about this subject. Perhaps the best well known is an article by Gary Hamel writing for the Harvard Business Review First, Lets Fire All The Managers Open in new window.

Below are some more:

Guy Browning writing in the Guardian - Managers must make a difference – otherwise why keep them Open in new window?

Roger Hodge writing for New Republic about the Zappos restructuring- First, Let’s Get Rid of All the Bosses Open in new window.

Matt Black Systems Open in new window have put this into practice and it does seem to work, Read their Manifesto Open in new window .

It may seem like a bizarre concept but it appears to be gaining traction. For a wider view, read Frederic Laloux's book - Reinventing Organizations Open in new window .



The term "Self-Management" is often used in the same breath as "Holacracy®" (the name is derived from "holocracy", coined by Artur Koestler in his 1967 book, The Ghost in the Machine). The name was coined by Brian Robertson the founder of Holacracy® Open in new window perhaps not the first to consider the concept of self-managing organisations but certainly the company that put the term Holacracy® "on the map". Holacracy® provide a short guide Open in new window which gives a flavour of (their version of) the concept.

Employee Engagement is taken to completely new levels with self-organisation but that doesn't mean no organisation at all. It is often said that self-organisation creates a more robust structure, and thereby a more robust organisation, than one imposed from the top down.

A 2008 article The Last Mile of the Market looks at the issue in detail. It can be found here Open in new window .

The concept is not entirely new and owes, no doubt a certain debt to Peter Drucker Open in new window perhaps best known for his 1954 book The Practice of Management, where he first outlined his theories of management by objectives and self-control. Many other thinkers have, of course, also contributed, too many to mention here.

The process also appears to be happening from the ground up. Matt Kremer, a programmer, has taken it upon himself to become involved with the purpose of his organisation by making sure he is part of key decision making processes. He explains more in an interview with Simple Programmer in the video below.




Whilst Matt's ideas and his book Open in new window are aimed straight at programmers, many of the principles can be applied to other forms of work. In particular when delivering a new product or service, adhering to the concept of a Minimum Viable Product could be very useful.

The full self-management structure may not yet be for all organisations but there are elements of the concept that could give your organisation a boost and improve engagement, motivation and maybe productivity and profit.

Semco in Brazil, once dubbed "the World's Most Unusual Workplace" instituted a form of "democratic management" and has grown by 20% in the last 20 years. ABC of Australia interviewed Ricardo Semler Open in new window in 2007. Semco have most of the elements of true self-management but still have managers although these are chosen by the employees.

"Semco has grown sixfold despite withering recessions, staggering inflation, and chaotic national economic policy. Productivity has increased nearly sevenfold. Profits have risen fivefold."

Source: Maverick! Open in new window by Ricardo Semler



Henry Stewart of Happy (Computers and Training) Open in new window applies many of the principles of self-organisation. Happy has won many awards Open in new window as well as being a highly successful business.

Happy also have a manifesto Open in new window .

Dennis Bakke, the co-founder and ex-president and CEO of AES has written a book about the decision-making aspect of management. He outlines his approach in the video below.


Bakke also gave a very insightful interview, transcribed here Open in new window .

Management is an invention

In case this all seems a bit far-fetched, it is worth understanding that "management" is a relatively recent invention.

As Gary Hamel explains in the video below.


For a list of some organisations that have broken the mould see our page of case studies.

Product quality

How good is your product? Be truthful. How does it compare to your competitors? This last question may help with establishing your USP. Can you improve quality, if so what is required? What quality control do you have in place and how is quality measured?

Six Sigma Open in new window has many merits for (continuous) product improvement. In 2005 Motorola Open in new window attributed over US$17 billion in savings to Six Sigma.

Kaizen is an excellent system that can drive quality and innovation. A form of this was used to great effect by Brasilata, one of the examples used on Self-Management. Kaizen is one of the central changes we advocate for our clients, as well as driving innovation, it has a huge impact on employee engagement, empowerment and motivation.


There are many aspects related to security: Physical, financial, asset and data are but four.

Run a quick check on each aspect. You may be surprised how you can improve security by implementing simple measures. Periodically check these measures are being followed and if they actually work.

It can be helpful to make a list of all the computers in your organisation and list the programs running on each and what it is used for and by whom. Don't forget to record all the product codes for the programs you use. This simple measure can save a lot of problems and cost, should you need to replace a computer that is no longer functioning or that you want to upgrade. Installation discs should be stored in a safe place, preferably off-site.

Password strength


Seemingly trivial oversights such as weak passwords have brought more than one organisation to its knees. There are some useful strategies, such as Manuel Blum's "humanly computable" system Open in new window . The website XKCD has an amusing but potentially quite useful cartoon (left).

No doubt there are now a lot of people who have "correcthorsebatterystaple" as their password!

This cartoon created a lot of interest and comment, some extremely technical and has even inspired a password generating web site Open in new window .


The simplest form of strategy is the business plan. Most companies have some form of business plan, few ever look at or revise it. it's a worthwhile exercise, if you run a company, to write one out now and pass it round your workforce. The response might be quite informative! Check to see if the responses relate to the organisation's purpose.
The Prince's Trust has an excellent guide Open in new window .

You might also want to try Plan Cruncher Open in new window an on-line tool for creating a pitch for potential investors. If the tool does not suit you then you might find their icon set useful as an aid to building your plan.

More complex strategies such as SWOT Open in new window analysis or PESTLE Open in new window may also be applicable.

SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats) is a way of collaboratively exploring each of these areas and from the results devising strategies for either exploiting or mitigating the impact of your organisation.

PESTLE (Political, Economic, Sociological, Technological, Legal and Environmental) is a framework for analysing external influences on an organisation, that may affect an organisation. A PESTLE analysis can be a useful way to investigate how external factors can affect an organisation and what the impact(s) may be.

There are many ways of examining a company's portfolio of products or services or even business units. One well known tool is the Boston Matrix Open in new window , developed in the 1970s by the Boston Consulting Group.

An emerging "language" for codifying a strategy is StratML Open in new window which William Charlton, the founder of Premier Crew, has been involved with. StratML has interesting potential uses for strategy building, if only by encouraging the writer to consider all the factors, actions needed and how these actions might be carried out and by whom.


Do you know who they are? You could do worse than asking your customers, you may be surprised how helpful this can be. Put yourself in the shoes of a hypothetical customer and go through the initial stages of searching for a supplier. While using a Search Engine for suppliers, make a note of where they (and your organisation) comes in the results pages. Make a spreadsheet listing each search term and the various rankings for you and your competitors. Again, don't forget that your employees are a very valuable source of suggestions. Ask them who they might go to if they wanted a product or service like the ones you sell!

Use the same spreadsheet to list your possible USPs and try to establish a ranking for each competitor for each item.

Carrying out regular Credit Checks on your competitors can prove illuminating.

Digging deeper, there is a lot you can find out about your competitors by using on-line tools - contact William to find out more.

Social impact

"Going green" can really impact the bottom line but social strategy is much more than eco-sense.


Sustainable strategies are not just good for the environment but also for business, say the experts. Here are four key benefits:

  1. Lower operating costs. Sustainable policies can lower costs in areas such as energy consumption, administrative overhead, disposal and recycling, equipment depreciation, and maintenance.
  2. Business growth. Sustainability can be a powerful marketing tool that drives revenue growth through customer loyalty, differentiation from competitors, and stronger brand awareness.
  3. Employee engagement. Employees are often highly motivated by environmental issues, and can become more committed to their company by participating in activities that promote sustainability. A reputation for sustainable practices also helps companies recruit the best and the brightest.
  4. Risk mitigation. Sustainability strategies can protect companies against regulatory changes, public relations liabilities, rising fuel prices, and the changing requirements of large customers.

Source: The Globe and Mail Open in new window

LGT Venture Philanthropy has published a paper Open in new window outlining how a Social Impact Strategy can add value to an organisation.

A related concept is "Think Global Act Local". You might think this only applies to social enterprises but if you have customers form anywhere other than your local area, this makes sense even if they are in another part of the same country. The chances are they have different needs, and possibly a different language. They will appreciate you reaching out to them and if nothing else having a part of your literature or web site in their language Open in new window . Paige O'Neill of the Economist explains it well Open in new window .

Contact William to find out more.