Benefits of the right organisational design

  • Higher performance of the team as a whole
  • More inspired people in the right roles, at the right size
  • More opportunity for ideas to flow in a ‘team of teams’

Radical transparency

Ideas benefit from diversity. People in Finance have a perspective that’s useful to Marketing. Supply chain makes a contribution to HR. IT listens in to what Sales has to say about customer experience. Being heard, at whatever level you participate in the management of the work, encourages a deeper level of participation, motivation and engagement. And in the process, it builds a more agile organisation.

Greater leverage resides in the connections people make, rather than in their own heads. Accessing that power requires sharing and transparency. Yet such openness rubs up against ingrained habits of silo-based thinking. There’s a natural anxiety about relying on your subordinates’ and peers’ ability to hold and interpret information—even keep secrets about sensitive information—which, if seen by outsiders could harm your organisation, your team, or you personally.

Paradoxically, however, if you want high performance to become routine, you need to engage the broadest possible pool of experience and talent. For an organisation to truly flourish, decision-making powers need to be at the lowest level of the organisation competent to wield them.

Taking ownership at every level

Typically, executives try to hire the right people and ask them to recommend actions, but then keep the decision-making in their hands. That’s one type of accountability. It’s quite different, though, to ask them to actually make the decision. This demands from them a deeper level of processing to understand the possible effects of their decisions, making them far more likely to wield their discretionary powers more judiciously.

Having the courage to overcome your misgivings about letting go of the kind of control you’ve likely worked so hard to cultivate is no easy ask. It requires trust. We all have that voice in the head arguing, ‘I would rather be the one to control the information and decisions if I’m to take ultimate accountability.’

The paradox is, if you have chosen the right people in your team, having them take on accountability for their decisions leads to better outcomes all round. The right people have integrity, share your intention, have been selected for their competence and demonstrable results.


From Requisite Organisation to a ‘Team of Teams’

The Ensemble Way draws in part on the research of the psychologist Elliott Jaques, in Requisite Organisation and other books. He investigated how people—their skills, effort and ambitions—function best in organisations, both for the organisation’s success and for their own feeling of accomplishment.

His approach to organisational learning has significant implications for organisational design. While other practical management theories overlook the significance of Jaques’s contribution, we incorporate some of his ideas into what we call ‘just work’, with the emphasis on fairness, in such things as felt-fair pay, and even social justice.

More recently, we’ve been impressed by former General Stanley McChrystal’s ‘team of teams’ approach. The military is the ultimate ‘requisite organisation’ but McChrystal succeeded against an amorphous enemy by decentralising decisions made in a time-sensitive and uncertain environment, and being radically open with information up and down the line.

If you’re ready to see what team playing really looks like, get in touch today for a free consultation.