This post is an update of my organisational design primer from 2020.
Organisational design is a jumble of disciplines and capabilities, which, depending on who you talk to, includes some of the following: organisational development, learning and development, systems design, user-centred design, agile working, digital transformation, culture design, organisational psychology, Equity, Diversity, Inclusion and Justice, leadership and team coaching, HR and Operations.
The sources below reflect the jumble above and my own opinions about how organisations should organise (regeneratively), covering more the how (practice) and the why (beliefs) rather than the what (artefacts, such as operating models, which I’m not keen on).
Exploring what healthy organisations look like
- I like this article from The Ready about what organisations actually are. It includes an “Operating System canvas” which is a useful framing tool. For a deeper dive, read Brave New Work by Aaron Dignan. A clear read which knits together the best of many of the disciplines and approaches above
- Adam Grant’s newsletter, which contains useful organisational psychology nuggets
- The dimmensions of resilient organisations are structural, ideological, strategic and emotional, by Maurice Mitchell. Written about the non-profit sector in the US, but just as relevant to the UK
- 10 questions that contain the mindsets and practices of your future organisation: psychologically safe, decentralised, equitable, agile, complexity-informed, ecologically-minded
- 7 patterns for radically better organisational development in the UK nonprofit sector by The Patterns for Change Team
- I come back to Janet Hughes’s vision of a digital organisation again and again. Clear, with tangible examples.
Designing better processes
- Beyond The Rules: organising and governance for an economy designed for life, including practical toolkits and templates for re-orienting organisational processes (such as employment contracting) towards equity and regeneration. Convened by Dark Matter
- An example of a regenerative process: returning to work after a period of furlough, illness or caring responsibilities
- An example of using user-centred design and horizontal organising to re-design an internal process (in this instance, appraisals).
Concepts that I wish were org design memes
- Organisations are complex systems: 7 implications of seeing organisations as complex systems by Sonja Blignaut
- Organisations can be regenerative, not extractive: The Pluriverse of Regeneration by Sahana Chattopadhyay and The Ecological Organisations Framework. A big leap forward would be for organisations to learn how to end well, which Stewarding Loss and The Decelerator can guide us towards
- White supremacy culture gives organisations these characteristics: fear, one right way, either/or and the binary, denial and defensiveness, right to comfort and fear of conflict, individualism, progress is more and quantity over quality, worship of the written word, urgency
- Horizontal organising over hierarchical organising. See also Outlandish’s Playbook for how to organise as a sociocratic cooperative, Sociocracy 3.0’s resources, and Greaterthan and The Hum, who both offer brilliant trainings around self-management
- Strategy is memory by Little Futures (by Tom Critchlow and Brian Dell). This short blog post is my favourite thing ever written about strategy, and I read a lot of strategy books in the six years I spent working as a strategist
- Build developmental capability if you want cultures of trust and safety (by Darananda)
- Build imaginative capacity with future generations, nature and ancestors if you want leadership that’s fit for the 21st century (by Moral Imaginations).
Unusual org design-related thinking that I love
- Sahana Chattopadhyay’s newsletter, Pluriversal Planet: “my way of inviting us to step into a world that is counter-hegemonic, abundant, diverse, and inter-related”, centring voices from the Global South
- Microsolidarity by Richard D. Bartlett: “Microsolidarity is a community-building practice. We’re weaving the social fabric that underpins shared infrastructure”
- Millennial management science by Venkatesh Rao: exploring “the centrality of lore, as in folklore, the lore of a fictional extended universe, or more pertinently, the water-cooler lore of an organization, in the framing of the traditional concerns of management and organizational theory”.
What resources would you like to see on this primer?