Our engagement is based on certain fundamental premises that come out of our own experiences but also solid confirmation from organisations, management literature produced by business schools and management consultancies. Key premises are:
- Organisations are ‘ice-bergs’: The visible aspects such as structure, policies, procedures, assets, cash flow and reserves etc. are an important but only partial aspect of an organisation. Much of what influences its actual performance is ‘invisible’, ‘intangible’, ‘below the waterline’. And has largely to do with people: mind-sets, attitudes, atmosphere, organisational ‘culture’ etc.
- Sustained organisational effectiveness is more dependent on the ‘people-dimension’ than on other aspects. At worst, an organisation is stuck in a ‘low commitment, low capacity, low performance’ trap. But even if the organisation is well resourced and strategically managed, with staff that is technically-thematically very competent, it can be underperforming because of the problematic atmosphere and dynamics among its people. Strong performance without strong internal health is possible for a certain amount of time (even up to 5 years), but will not be sustained unless the organisation has an environment that harnesses the best of its people;
- Organisational effectiveness is more often than not dependent on collaboration with other organised entities. ‘Capacities within’ need to be complemented by ‘capacities between’ – which has implications for the organisational culture, particular skills (partnering, collaborative leadership) and possibly even the business model. This is typically overlooked in organisational assessments;
- Organisations live in a habitat: Their actual functioning will not only be a result of their design and culture, but also of wider political, economic and social influences. Successful organisations therefore also need to have ‘political’ resources and capabilities. This too is typically overlooked.
- No one can build the capacity of someone else: ‘Capacity’ development can only happen from within. ‘Change readiness’ can be partial and tentative, but without some change readiness nothing will change;
- Most training does not contribute to organisational development: For various reasons, among them: it doesn’t fit within a wider OD strategy or process; it is not sufficiently tailored, there is no follow up support, the learning remains with the individuals and is not more widely absorbed;
- Supporting capacity- and organisational development requires an ability to identify / sense where an organisation at that moment is at, and design a process to take it to the next level.
- Most large scale organisational change processes fail: Problem- and purpose-driven iterative adaptations, incremental developments, overall work better than ‘grand design’ restructurings and re-engineering;
- Supporting capacity- and organisational development requires a particular set of competencies, that include both reference frameworks but also strong personal and interpersonal skills.