Archive for the ‘Leadership’ Category


Post by Ian Gee.

We believe that Tech will not only reshape how OD is practiced but inevitably it will impact on the types of skills, training and background that the practitioner of the future will need. In this blog we provide a few examples of how we might do things differently taking advantage of what Tech offers us.

With thanks to the Urban Dictionary, here are some definitions:

Artificial Intelligence (AI) is about ‘outsourcing our cognition to the machine’ if you use the ‘personal assistant’ on your smartphone you are already making use of AI. HR tech systems use AI, with algorithms to interrogate big data; the aim being to find predictive patterns to enhance decision making.

Virtual and Augmented Reality (VR & AR) VR is ‘a cyber world where the ugly can be beautiful, the weak can be strong, the old can be young, the poor can be rich, boys can be girls and no one really minds!’. ‘AR blurs the line between what’s real and what’s computer-generated’. With AR, users continue to be in touch with the real world, while interacting with virtual objects, whilst with VR, the user is isolated from the real world and immersed in a fabricated world. 

Gamification The process of turning the world, into a computer game. “Work doesn’t feel like work anymore Harry. It feels like they’ve got me jumping through hoops with these bonus points games. But games are games right? Bring it on!”

Now let’s have a look at how OD can make use of these technologies. These are our initial ideas and we are sure you will have your own ideas – please share them in the comments section.

Globalisation/ New Market Entry/ Business Uncertainty

Many of today’s businesses are looking to trade globally, enter new markets and or are managing a high degree of uncertainty about the future. – Use tailored algorithms to provide real time information for continuous business planning and strategy development processes. AI can carry out companywide sentiment analysis (that is, scan blogs, emails, social media comments etc. about your company and rate them in terms of support etc.), understand market share, employee turnover, pension liability, etc. Build computer based AR/VR simulations that could be used to ‘imagine the future’. Developing a ‘Tower of Babylon’ providing an immersive experiences of different cultures without the need for travel. The opposite is also true. An AR/VR simulation giving new market employees the chance to understand life at HQ.

Regulation, Ethics and Compliance

We live in a world where ethics and compliance failures can put a company under the spotlight and cause massive reputational damage. – Use big data to understand your companies pattern of compliance and non-compliance identifying potential hotspots. Develop VR/AR scenarios that allow employees to act in both an ethical/compliant and non-ethical/non-compliant way, so they can understand the difference and experience the consequences of their actions. 

Organisation Complexity

Organisations face increased complexity in the market place, ways of working, understanding customers, managing stakeholders etc. – Develop a ‘complexity dashboard’ using AI to do the thinking for you and only share with you what you need to know in a format that is easy to understand. At the same time inspires people to incorporate ‘algorithmic thinking’ detail-oriented thinking about methods) into their ways of working. 

Change Overload, Tracking Outcomes and ROI

Organisations can become addicted to change! More than ever we need to track the impact of change and provide evidence of the ROI. – Use algorithmic thinking to identify what changes are critical and will have the biggest impact and use AI to track change and calculate ROI. 


Diversity, in all its forms, is a differentiator in the 21st Century workplace and marketplace. – Track diversity using AI to identify stumbling blocks, talent management issues etc. Identify the positive impacts of diversity through a real-time algorithmically driven ‘Diversity Index’. Use VR/AR to provide employees with the chance to be someone different and experience the workplace from their perspective. Gamification can be used to give points and prizes for employees who are building a culture where diversity flourishes.


Effective leadership is critical to the success of organisations. – Use Ai to understand past leadership success and failures and track the conditions that allow success to occur. Provide a VR/AR experience that lets employees stand in a leader’s shoes and understand the complexity of the role.

Mergers and Acquisitions

70% of M&A activity fails to add value, yet we continue to do it in the same ways. – Use big data to Identify potential targets. Use AR/VR simulations to test integration plans. Gamify integration plans by offering points and prizes for those helping to realise the value of an M&A. Develop an internal ‘stock market’ where employees can invest in ideas related to integration.

Change Management and Culture Change

Successful change management and culture change are still problematic. – Use AR/VR to provide experiences of the positive and negative aspects of your current culture and proposed future culture. Gamify change by developing airline style levels of reward for supporting change, providing points and prizes for ideas and behaviour change. 


Getting the message out there continues to challenge organisations. – Use AR/VR to provide experience of the impact of communication and test how the cascade works. Use a ‘pay it forward’ form of gamification to reward effective impactful communication.

In the comments section it would be great to get your thoughts and comments about this. If any of you are technologically mind and would like to explore any of this in more detail, we would be happy to have a Skype chat or meet for a cup of tea…..



Guest Post by: Carole Grimwood

Let me start with an immediate reassurance that this isn’t a political blog. I don’t want to disengage readers straight away! I do however want to talk about last month’s Labour leadership election. Whatever my views about the outcome I have found the way the Corbyn campaign engaged a previously disaffected group of people has been both interesting and instructive and I think there are is some interesting learning here for OD and HR colleagues.  I wonder whether others agree?

Values – The campaign awakened the interest of a group of people who previously felt disenfranchised because they considered their situation was not being addressed and perhaps most importantly their values were not previously represented in the political system.

Voice – It underscores the importance that people place on being listened to; having a voice, and being ‘done with’ rather that done to’. The notion of crowd sourcing questions for Prime Minister’s Questions is an extension of this.

Authenticity – Corbyn’s victory also exemplifies the importance that people are placing on what they perceive to be openness, integrity, straight talking and the absence of spin. This is perhaps about more authentic and empathetic leadership. We’re reading a good deal about at the moment about a shift away from heroic leadership in favour of more collaborative models. I particularly like what ‘The 21st Century Public Servant’ the recently published by the University of Birmingham has to say about this

Social Media – By August this year The Guardian was reporting a significantly higher use of all the key social media platforms by the Corbyn campaign. The #jezwecan was being shared once every 25 seconds at that point. Remember that this was also acknowledged to be a significant factor in Obama’s victory. Its remarkable though that when we talk to clients about using social media as part of their internal communications strategy for engagement and to support transformation programmes, there is still, more often than not, a notable reluctance. Is this because decisions are being made by people who are not using social media themselves and who lack confidence in it and don’t understand of its potential.

It seems to me that there is much transferable learning here for the world of employee engagement particularly in terms of switching on the disaffected:

  • Understanding why people are not engaged at the fundamental level of their personal values;
  • Listening to people and encouraging them to have a voice
  • Enabling people to actively participate;
  • Providing a different kind of leadership that is seen as authentic and worthy of trust
  • Communicating with them (not to them) using the media that that they use which means exploiting social media.

With these points in mind there is an outstanding issue to be considered and addressed. In engaging the disaffected – has this leadership election process created a whole new group of disaffected people? And if so can they be re-engaged? In the employee engagement arena it has to be about raising the total level of engagement and this will inevitable require flexibility of approach.

I’m interested to know whether you see the same or different lessons?


Have you ever seen the Canadian TV programme “Saving Hope”?  The main character is Dr Charlie Harris, Chief Surgeon of Hope Zion Hospital in Toronto.  He is in a coma following a car crash.  Whilst unconscious his spirit walks the halls of the hospital and helps the spirits of others who are also in comas or have recently died.  You are probably wondering what on earth the connection is between disembodied spirits and intrapreneurship?  Read on and you will see!

I have met and worked with a number of intrapreneurs during my 30 plus years working as an Organisation Development practitioner.  My experience is that many of them are like the poor souls Dr Charlie tries to help!  The halls of the organisations seem to be full of the spirits of intrapreneurs, walking round trying to influence things, but finding it incredibly difficult to be heard and to do the job they were brought in to do.

I have recently co-authored a book titled The Workplace Community  “A guide to releasing human potential and engaging employees.” Central to the book is an exploration of how we choose to organise the way we work.  In the book my co-author and I examine 4 different ways of working; hierarchy, project or programme management, workplace communities and intrapreneurial ways of working.  We believe hierarchy is a ‘default position’ for most people and organisations.  By default position, we mean most people choose to work hierarchically without even considering other options, a bit like computers in the ‘olden days’ that defaulted to the ‘c’ drive as soon as you turned them on.

There is nothing wrong with hierarchy per se and certainly for some activities it is the best way of working.  However I believe that about 75% of the work we do could be organised more effectively using one of the other modes mentioned above. The problem with hierarchy is that it tends to drive out innovation and creativity and I believe is particularly incompatible with intrapreneurial activities.  Successful hierarchy rests upon predictable behaviour, people knowing their place, decisions moving up and down the line, risk aversion and change being planned and programmed. Intrapreneurialism is more chaotic, opportunistic and risk driven. It relies on what a hierarchy is likely to consider unusual and unnecessary connections, making links and forming networks across silos and lines.  All of this is an anathema in a hierarchical organisation.

Intrapreneurship offers organisations the opportunity to raise the level of innovation and bring fresh new thinking that has the possibility of leading to new ideas, opportunities and innovations.  However when initiated in organisations wedded to hierarchy, as their dominant way of working, it is far too easy for the corporate antibodies to emerge, hunt down, attack and kill intrapreneurship stone dead and lead to the syndrome of ghosts in the hall I mentioned above.  Hierarchy finds it difficult to tolerate difference.

It is very easy for organisations to jump on the intrapreneurship bandwagon without thinking through how they need to shift their culture and ways of working in order to maximise the benefit that it offers and not kill it stone dead before it has a chance to deliver.  To do this they need an OD plan that will help them make appropriate shifts and changes to their organisation that will allow intrapreneurship to flourish and deliver.

One way of achieving this is through experimenting with workplace communities and using these experiments as a way of preparing the organisation for intrapreneurship.  By a workplace community I don’t mean people sitting round waiting for their turn with the talking stick!  What I mean is a structured and planned way by which people have the opportunity to work outside of traditional hierarchies and silos. Engaging with each other in new and different ways and as a consequence creating extraordinary results.  In our increasingly knowledge based economy, what we all know, our thoughts, ideas, creativity, innovation and willingness to share and collaborate, are critical for creating value for organisations and the individuals who work for them.

Community ways of working provide organisations with a way to tap into collective intelligence, engage people in a common sense of direction and in doing so provide the opportunity for unleashing individual and collective innovation. As such they are a good way of preparing the organisation for intrapreneurship.  Readying the ground and acting as a form of organisational interferon, stopping the corporate antibodies from killing intrapreneurship and leading to less ghost walking the corporate halls!

Innovate and Die?

Posted: September 26, 2014 by Ian Gee in Incentives, Leadership, Learning


I guess we have all heard the saying “innovate or die!” but I am wondering if there are times when the maxim should become ‘innovate and die’? My thinking about this topic came about as a result of a really interesting chat the other day with Adriana Ramos Hernandez, an MSC student at UCL. She wanted to explore innovation in management and ways of working.   We talked about how the workplace is changing and the challenges this presents for both organisations and the people who work in them. Towards the end of our chat, Adriana suddenly said, “Well, I guess it is a case of “innovate or die?”   Out of nowhere I thought about how innovation may not be the “Holy Grail” and has the potential to either severely wound you and your organisation or may, in some circumstances, even kill your organisation stone dead and lead to you losing your job! In essence, a passion for innovation rather than taking your organisation to the next stage of its evolution becomes something that stops it dead in the water.


Anybody who has been reading the papers in the last couple of years will have seen what appears to be a tsunami of stories detailing corporate bad behaviour and business scandals. Here is one recent example; a UK pay day loan company c, has had to pay out over £2 million in compensation for sending out letters to people, who were defaulting on their payments, from a fake solicitors firm. A firm they had in essence ‘made up’. The letters threatened legal action if people did not pay back their loans. They were charging people £40 for these letters; adding the charge to their ever growing debt.  You can read more about it here. Another good example would be the Libor scandals, have a look here for more details. Basically a number of national and international banks and other financial institutions were caught rigging the interbank lending rate and have been fined by regulators sums that run into the hundreds of millions of pounds.

I started to wonder if, before they were found out, did the individuals and companies concerned consider these to be wonderful corporate innovations? Ideas that would have a direct and positive impact on the bottom line and give the company a ‘leading edge’ over the competition? The kinds of innovations people get lovely bonuses and recognition at appraisal time for? The kinds of innovations that other people look jealously on and wish they had come up with?

But what happens when the innovation turns out to be unethical? It is very interesting to read the reactions of the senior leaders to being found out. In the cases mentioned here CEO’s and senior leaders lost their jobs, the chairs of a number of boards lost their jobs and millions of pounds were wiped off the value of the companies involved. In addition and much harder to measure is the impact and damage the scandals have had on their brands. These innovations could literally have killed the companies.

If you do a web search for ethics and innovation what you will find is mostly linked to technological, medical and scientific innovation with very little about the relationship of ethics to organisational or managerial innovation. Of course from an OD point of view we would be looking at issues of culture and values. But I am wondering if in the arena of ethics and innovation there is a gap that we in OD should start to explore and fill and if so how? What do you think?




Firstly thank you all so much for your great comments and reflection on my last blog post! Matthew and I would also like to thank you for your kind words about the book and suggestions regarding the title. After a lot of thought and discussion we have now agreed with the publisher the following title:

The Workplace Community

A guide to releasing human potential and engaging employees

What do you think?

Since my last post the publishers have come back to us and said they would like to publish the book in November this year, rather than January 2015, so its been all go to get it ready for their first edit in May. We will keep you posted as to how things develop and move forward. Now onto this months blog poast….

In the last week or so I have been mulling on the nature of sponsorship and what it means in todays organisations. This all started when a good friend of mine took on the challenge of walking 26 miles for a UK breast cancer charity and was seeking sponsorship. My friend’s family has encountered breast cancer more than once and so this is a cause close to her heart. Over the years she has raised a fair amount of money for charity by running or walking or some such other activity. Of course I will be sponsoring her. I am very happy to support her and applaud the energy and effort she is putting into this. Walks like this don’t just happen; they require a lot of training and preparation.

All of this got me mulling on the nature of sponsorship and the link between sponsorship and the actions they support. As I mulled, I started to wonder what if my friend had just asked me for money for breast cancer, without the need for her to train and then walk 26 miles? Would I have given it to her? My answer was yes, of course I would. She is a good friend and I would help her and support causes that matter to her, no matter what.

I am sure there are a number of academic studies that explore what we get out of doing things for charity, including sponsorship. I can guess that these include feeling close to a cause or issue that is important to us, a sense of doing good, being part of a group that is doing something about something or engaging in what Richard Titmus called a ‘Gift Relationship”

This then led me onto thinking about the role of sponsorship in OD.   Many years ago when I did my first OD training I remember my teachers and mentors talking about the need for proactive sponsorship in any change or OD initiative. Making sure you have sponsors aligned and fully on-board. They also explained how more OD initiatives fail because of a lack of effective sponsorship, with one of the worst examples of being ‘The case of the Disappearing Sponsor’. This always sounded like the title of an Agatha Christie novel to me! It happens where you have, most usually, a senior leader who is sponsoring your change. They are all enthusiastic and excited but what you don’t know is they suffer from some form of OD ADD. This means that at some point they get bored with your initiative and move on to the next juicy item on their agenda. In doing so, they take the wind out of the sales of the project and though things may stumble on for a while they usually grind to a halt.

I decided to have a look at the dictionary definition of sponsorship. All the definitions said that sponsorship is about money being paid for an event in return for advertising., for example, BP sponsoring the annual portrait competition at the National Gallery in London and Royal Dutch Shell sponsoring Ferrari worldwide.

This made me wonder if this is where we are going wrong in OD, not clearly linking the sponsorship of OD, change and transformation initiatives, tightly enough to executive reward? The executive reward could be directly linked to their tasks and targets and performance appraisal. Or it could be more psychological based? But whatever it is, it needs to be something that ties the reward element in as clearly, visibly and publically a way as the sponsors supporting large-scale events. The kind of events where individuals and corporations fight to have their names associated with them, because they know it is good for them and their company. Perhaps we need sponsors of OD projects who fight to be seen as an active sponsor in the same way?

Maybe its time for folks like us to explore and open up the debate about the intrinsic and extrinsic rewards of OD sponsorship and develop ways of including this more explicitly as part of our consultancy conversations? This would need to be both at the start of any OD project as well as at critical times during the transformation or change process. Mind you, I am not advocating that as OD consultants we suddenly start dressing like the man in the picture at the top of this blog! Can you imagine it? Lots of personal logos and badges with the CEO, CFO, EVP of HR and this and that on our jump suits! But may be if that helps…..! Perhaps its our new uniform. I have often wondered if OD had a uniform what would it look like?!

So what do you think? Have you ever found yourself having an Agatha Christie moment hunting for the disappearing sponsor? What have you done to get them back or stop this happening in the first place? Be good to hear.

The Leadership Wolf

Posted: February 4, 2014 by Matthew Hanwell in Human Resources, Leadership, People


Guest blog by Tine Huus

The Wolf of Wall Street Aside, Do Leaders Know What They Want with Their Leadership?

The first film I saw in the New Year was Scorsese’s Wolf of Wall Street though I had been warned it might clash with my feminist values. The film actually got me thinking about leadership – here we saw a leader who created an engaging and fun (though biased) work environment based on a completely unsustainable business model. From the outset, the Wolf knew what he wanted with his leadership, and then things got out of balance.

We have probably all at some point discussed with colleagues and friends if they have ever been managed by a leader who made you feel you are enough, can do your best work, while constantly raising the bar and with fun as an ingredient? Many of us are leaders ourselves. How is the rating when we turn the mirror to ourselves as leaders?

This made me reflect on the following questions. Do leaders know what they want with their leadership? Do employees know what they want from their leaders? Is the whole concept of leadership polluted by trillions of theories and varied application? Is the whole thing anyway changing rapidly with Gen-Y joining the workforce, work happening in matric structures, more online and virtually?

According to the current Edelman Trust Barometer, there is a leadership crisis and the largest ever gap between trust importance and trust performance in business and government since the study began in 2001. One of their 2014 recommendations is for the CEO to become the Chief Engagement Officer, taking responsibility for establishment of the context in which change will occur. We increasingly trust technical experts and “a person like yourself” more than top leadership. In general, employee engagement surveys show a substantial gap in perceptions between senior management and experts or workers on engaging leadership and culture of trust. Top of the house perceptions can be three times as favourable and simply out-of-touch with their own organisations and employees.

I think employees do know what they want from leaders, however, if they don’t get it, few are brave enough to challenge and ask for it. In other words, we follow half-hearted leadership and our engagement and performance become half-hearted. In Plato’s words, we waste our work life away as “an unexplored life is not worth living”. Leaders not considering what values they want to create waste our time.

How come when we – leaders and employees – can choose between “good” culture (focus on stakeholders, regular, transparent, two-way communications, agility, and sustainability) and “bad” culture (focus on profit, infrequent, branded, top-down communications, complacency, and short-term), we don’t wholeheartedly go for good? What’s stopping us? The Wolf of Wall Street was a truly engaging leader though building his business on an entirely bad culture.

Many of us will not be able to name even one leader who truly engaged us. I have personally had about 15 managers in my career and sat in several leadership teams. I can name two individuals, both male and of another nationality. Perhaps adding culture into the relationship means you mutually become more curious, explorative, and reflective, have deeper conversations, and come to fully trust each other through the process.

Leadership starts with what is the most important – dreams and values. I also came across the concept of “protreptic coaching” recently. Protreptic means turning a person towards what is most important and has dominated leadership academies until the 18th century since its inception in ancient Greece. Through dialogues on ideals, model organisations, values, norms, dreams, and visions, you find for yourself what is most important as a human being and reflect on who you really are and who you aspire to be. Today, we could return to these human dialogues in feedback and performance management processes to start re-articulating what leadership is about, what value it brings, and what dilemmas are involved. It would be natural to do business whole-heartedly and in a holistic way.

If this was part of the package, Gen-Y employees might want to take the leadership path like their parents. It would prepare employees to take leadership roles as well as people to step in and out of leadership roles. As in (online) communities, the one with the vision takes the lead. Even the Wolf of Wall Street might have found a sustainable business model and promoted an inclusive culture, had he continued his leadership journey with reflections and conversations on what is most important and got the balance in place.

I am curious to hear your reflections? As a leader, do you know what you want with your leadership?

Roots of Human Capital Management

Posted: December 12, 2013 by Matthew Hanwell in Human Resources, Leadership, People

I was quite shocked to read in the September HBR an interview with Caitlin Rosenthal, on Plantations of the 19th century and their use of scientific management techniques as a way of increasing effectiveness and efficiency. Her contention is that they were far more advanced at the time than factories as as unlikely as it might sound were probably the genesis for a lot of early management theory!

Most striking to me was the systematic way in which many Plantation owners employed advanced accounting and management tools to manage their ‘Human Capital’ – Slaves. Literally humans were their capital. They made use of Thomas Affleck’s “Plantation Record and Account Books” which contained advanced techniques such as instructions on how to calculate depreciation in your human capital.

Given this historical association, I am surprised at the popularity of the term Human Capital, as in “Human Capital Management” – it is so commonly used today.

I had only ever considered the term human capital management as a positive aspect of the modern workplace; however with this historical association I am now changing my mind. Many of the techniques employed by Plantation owners in the 19th century would be familiar in our modern working environments. Hopefully with the total absence of the brutality, exploitation and oppression, though not necessarily when one recalls FoxConn stories ( of suicides in China, abnormally high suicide rates at France Telecom ( and the many stories of exploitation in the garment trade in SE Asia.

Today in HR we typically have Headcount and Full Time Equivalents (FTE’s), a Plantation Owner would have units of “Prime Field Hand”, “Half Hand” and “Quarter Hand” and used these units for efficiency and productivity benchmarks across plantations.

Apparently Plantation owners also experimented with ‘incentive plans’ (modern day Management by Objectives) for their ‘Human Capital’ aimed at achieving new levels of performance, but also used physical punishments for any shortfall. Group incentives were also employed to drive other behaviours.

Since slave owners had total control over their ‘Human Capital’ they were able to systematically collect data on their workforce, and could freely experiment with different tactics to increase the productivity and efficiency of their Human Capital, ultimately maximizing their profits.

I hope that in our enthusiasm for both the term and the practice of modern human capital management we never forget the very people that make up our workforce. While todays labour can generally be considered voluntary, it is all too easy to reduce people to a statistic on a headcount or productivity report and as such forget their inherent humanity and treat them in ways that both dehumanize us as HR professionals and them as human beings.

This article has certainly caused me to reflect on the term Human Capital Management and I’m not sure I’ll be enthusiastically using it in the future.

What do you think?