Christmas has been and gone, January – dry or otherwise- is well and truly underway and New Year’s resolutions are starting to fade. Noses back to the grindstone then. So why work?

It’s a question worth asking.

Bills to pay? Clearly a driver for most of us.

And yet sadly for my bank balance I never figured out how to work just for money. As I approach the third decade of my working life I have to acknowledge that I am incapable of working in a set-up that doesn’t match to my values. Put simply- I have to feel that I am doing good work with good people to get out of bed in the morning. And I can’t fake it.  (It’s a strength and a liability- this inability to toe other people’s lines also seems to run in my family- but that is another blog).

So money is a driver- and I argue that it benefits us as change consultants to dig a little deeper.

Our senior clients typically have choices about which organisations to work in, which roles and projects to take up. The extent to which they are willing to exercise these choices vary.  Few and far between are senior individuals with no choice at all. They also have significant influence over the type of roles and assignments they create for those working for them, and the extent to which those working with them stay or go.

And yet many of us fall into the trap of assuming that the people around us really are just working for money. The somewhat taboo question of why do you work?” is rarely asked at work.This is particularly true in organisations with long service- where gradually the idea of people exercising their choices seems a more and more remote possibility as golden handcuffs gently tighten around executive wrists. Some of the most enlivening conversations I have had in the last 12 months have been asking senior managers what they love about their jobs. After the embarrassed laugh and a few deflections people tell you. And although they rarely thank you for asking it’s the type of conversation that creates a different kind of connection. One senior leader very frankly told me “I am motivated by learning- it’s not the money or the title”.

Another hard bitten and demanding CEO who had worked in the Health sector all his life when asked the question about what brought him into this kind of role in the first place became noticeably emotional and shared a very moving story from earlier in his career. I sensed he felt some loss for that ‘person’ who had originally felt compelled to do what he was now doing. And his demeanour lightened at least for the rest of the workshop. This glimpse of his humanity certainly had an impact on me and how I related to him from that point on.  I’m sure the rest of his team would say the same.

I sometimes follow up by asking team leaders what type of role/ project/ environment would best enable each member of their team to flourish. Taking time to think of this enables them to think about what conditions they can create to get the best out of their people. It’s a question they come back to over time.

In the context of organisational change knowing what people hold dear matters.So go ahead.  Ask someone why they work. I’d love to know what you find out.


Organisation re-design traps

Organisation re-design bear traps

By Dev Mookherjee and Sarah Beart

Many of us have experienced organisation re-design processes that have destroyed trust and value in the organisations in which we work. (Some of us have even been responsible for them). When things go wrong, it’s often down to misguided assumptions about what’s needed, usually based on good intentions and responding to organisational pressures. Letting off steam over the holidays, we listed some of the most-tempting bear traps for the organisation designer. Warning: this post contains irony!

1. Ensure no link to strategy. You don’t really understand what the strategy means anyway, and checking for understanding may well expose your ignorance.

‎2. Ask the HR Director to come up with the new structure over the weekend, they will come up with a new organigram, or better still ‎outsource the re-design process to a consultancy – they have tried and tested templates to do “this sort of thing”. The best thing about this approach is that you could blame them if the re-structuring gets too painful and this allows you to remain “off the hook”.

‎3. Do early planning in secret, announce the high-level plan and then maintain radio silence (while all your good people look for other jobs). You don’t want to make any promises you can’t keep. If you involved people you would be forced to take on board their ideas and that’s not a good idea as you’ve made your mind up already. This is a great tip if you are an avid practitioner and advocate of “mushroom management”.

4. Build your new structure around the people you like, and use the opportunity of the restructure to get rid of the “dead wood” you were never able to give difficult feedback to. They will never know that you thought they weren’t any good at the job anyway.

5. Assume that the structure you choose will act as a kind of magic wand to disappear all the unhelpful behaviour and perverse incentives you now have. Act surprised when these things resurface in the new set up.

‎6. Come up with only one structural option. No time to waste and you know what you need to do anyway. You could copy the design that your closest competitor has – after all it works for them. Or go back to a previous design which, with the benefit of hindsight, looks better than what you have now.

7. ‎Rush the re-design. After all, you don’t want people to be worried for too long and we all know that “time is money”.

8. Keep the re-design disconnected from culture and feelings – you don’t want any of that soft stuff creeping in to your nice tidy organigram. You can always mop up later with some kind of specialist therapy.

9. Run some organisation re-design workshops to consult the workforce, and smile broadly at people who come up with ideas that suit your secret plans, frown at those whose ideas contradict it. They’ll all soon get the message.

10. Invent a lot of jargon, acronyms and strange job titles to bandy about. It will help you stay on top of the conversations.

Recognise any of these or have others to add? Drop us a line at: or

Avoiding organisation design traps

Successfully avoiding bear traps on your organisation re-design journey

So…you think you need to re-structure? Really?

Organisation design

Re-structuring – the organisation defibrillator

We are often asked whether we could support a company re-design. The conversation usually starts something like this…”We have decided to re-structure our organisation and would like some help on how to do this well – can you help us”? We then respond… “What is the question you are trying to answer, and what makes you think re-structuring is the right answer to your question”?

At this point some clients are bemused (or irritated) that we seem to challenge what they see as an obvious need. Others seem relieved and intrigued by the possibility of having a range of choices available to them.

Restructuring: the design option of last resort

Our view is that re-structuring should be seen as the option of last resort – the one you turn to when others won’t solve your problem.

Why do we say this? Well, large scale re-structuring is often disruptive to the people in the business, takes time (research suggests most take over a year to bed in) and can have a negative impact on clients during the transition. A client described the experience of re-structuring as “fixing a running car”.

We are not though saying that re-structures are never appropriate, indeed we make a living out of supporting them, just that they should not be initiated without understanding of their impact and the other organisation design choices available.

Client experience of an alternative design option

A recent client has had a chronic issue around the fact that accountability for decisions was so opaque and freedom for managers so great that this resulted in duplication of activities and confusion for clients as they received different offers from different departments in the same organisation. Rather than restructuring, the initial preferred option, they were able to make significant improvements by clarifying decision rights on critical decisions. In the process they got under the skin of their culture to understand and address their aversion to consistency and clarity.

When are re-structures helpful?

There are however a number of circumstances where re-structures (not structural tweaks) seem to be helpful and appropriate…

1. when you have tried addressing the other design policy areas on Jay Galbraith’s Star Model (people, process, rewards) and the results have come up short;

2. when the scale of the challenge is big and urgent and perhaps mandated due to an acquisition or divestment;

3. when you have clear evidence that structure is the critical barrier to delivering your strategy;

4. if you believe the organisation needs the equivalent of an electrical jolt to the heart to re-pattern its activity.

If you are still clear that re-structuring in the right answer given the above then hang on to the moving vehicle or grab the defibrillator and stand clear…