Break it, Shake it, Make it

Organizational Redesign

By Karen Boswell, VMLY&R EMEA Chief Experience Officer and WPP Transformation Lead for Walgreens Boots Alliance

Traditional organisations are often built on learning habits that predate modern thinking by decades. Legacy mindset and misapplied processes contribute to deeply embedded psychological ways of working often around hypothetical constructs. Not only does this make identifying the core of change super tricky but also hard to directly measure or attribute to aspects of business performance, hence the ‘fail fast, fall forward’ approach many change agents (myself included) prefer to take.

I’m fascinated with the neural mechanisms underpinning organisational design, in particular isomorphisms between process design and behavioural change. Isomorphism considers the one-to-one structural correspondence between two or more constituent parts of a psychological process. Within organisations this often leads to imitation, known as mimetic isomorphism i.e., copying competition or seeking only to win within a category, which are pressures often evoked by stakeholders worried about share prices, known as coercive isomorphism. 

A long-tail continuation of this will create isomorphic homogeneity to a point that can be very difficult to fix. Breaking the homogeneity of an organisation will require brave conversations and decisions so start small and just get going. My tried and tested approach follows a simple flow...

Apply design thinking to reframe isomorphic conditions.

Often NPD cycles are born from a need to grow a business, so ideation is based on adapting and impacting an existing marketplace. Whilst not ineffective, the ‘I wish I’d thought of that’ growth tends to come from the disruptors that start with a gap in the marketplace. These gaps are caused by an unmet human need or desire, so reframe sales models into consumer Jobs to Be Done (JTBD) to find new spaces to grow. In short, to BREAK a tired model; Reframe first, sell second.

Embed new cognitive patterns to enable cultures of creativity.

Cultures of fear are hard to shake up and they’re prominent in organisations facing difficult times. It’s no secret that the Apples and Amazons of the world keep innovation and creativity at their core to constantly disrupt their org design and bring about positive change. It’s no consequence they remain therefore ‘the ones to beat’. Shifting muscle memory is one of the most difficult things to achieve but it’s the change that gets the tanker course corrected on a stormy sea. Perhaps it’s time to let those ‘that’s not how we do it here’ mindsets go, and instead seek out your ‘not sure, let’s figure it out’ disruptive front line. To SHAKE a tired model; Kick the ‘No, but’s’ and bring in the ‘Yes, and’s’.

Encourage innovation throughout the entirety of an organisation.

Demand for innovative thinking is vast, yet supply is often contained within a ‘special ops’ team. This resembles something close to madness. An idea can come from anywhere and the more innovative an organisation is the more it breaks homogeneity and advances competitively in a marketplace. Press for production change, impose new typologies, develop new sources and providers, create new structures and you will distinguish the power of progress. To MAKE a new model; encourage innovation everywhere because an idea can come from anywhere.  

Remember; Break it. Shake it. Make it.

...Read More