People functions are in transition. Human Resources, Transformation and Org Design teams are having to become strategic business enablers beyond performing traditional transactional processes. As data is becoming the new essential resource for the people functions of today, these functions have to rethink how they can drive organisational effectiveness. So how are practitioners combining the art and science of decision-making?
To discuss the challenges and opportunities facing HR and OD professionals, on January 28th, we brought together 32 senior practitioners in Amsterdam. The event, was the first hosted by our new Netherlands team and also celebrated Rupert Morrison’s new book, Data-driven Organisation Design: Sustaining the Competitive Edge through Organizational Analytics. The evening drew on art, architecture and new data-centric thinking to help answer the question: How can intuition, experience and data all be used as part of an analytical process to enhance insights across the organisation, drive decision-making, and help making changes real?
The gathering was under no illusions at the gravity of this question. Professor Ard-Pieter de Man, author and director of SIOO, the Dutch consultants’ training organisation, immediately emphasised that “even consultancy firms need to rethink their structures”, to become more agile. Consulting firms that to date have sold support for transformation by offering long hours, data crunching and bespoke analysis will in future have to leverage their talents through data-led insights, replicable tools and faster time to value.
Seeing where the land lies
Using art and storytelling, consultants AimAtArt, helped the group to think through current and future organisation design and management practices in a different light.
One particular highlight was a discussion around a large format-quilt map of the Antarctica by artist Jonathan Marshall. Hanging in the building’s historic interior, the map opened up a window on the Antarctic’s history and profile, giving an understanding as to how it has evolved with time. The outcome of this visual exploration was a new way of seeing organisational design as an ongoing rather than a one-off intervention. The discussion led HR leaders to think of organisations as living organisms that are constantly evolving in a complex environment. Like cells in amorphous organisms, organisations need to connect all of their elements together and build mechanisms to respond quickly to changing external environment.
Seeding change from the shopfloor
Delivering organisational effectiveness requires the ability to take two stances at opposite ends of the spectrum, First, is the ability to be an objective spectator, which requires practitioners to step back and critically analyse the organisation ‘as-is’. Second is the ability to directly engage and interact with the ongoing evolution of the design. This means thinking through the interaction from the practitioner’s perspective as well as the employees and customers who will be involved in each element of the organisation.
Dutch architect Philip Vencken, who is currently designing Concentra’s new office space, made the case that workspace design and organisation design can be closely connected. Just like organisational structures, the layout of the office dramatically impacts on employees’ interaction and collaboration with each other, their morale and performance. Lounge areas, for example have the ability to break down barriers between departments. Study booths offer a peaceful and quiet space for employees to focus, while relaxed team spaces foster creative ideas. Vencken argued that just as businesses have transformed their workspaces to cultivate stronger collaboration and engagement, organisation design must be understood as more than org charts and reporting lines. Much more important is how the organisation helps people interact with processes to shape and deliver the work to be done.
Strategy propelled by visual data and impactful design
Adopting a data-driven approach to organisation design as advocated by Rupert Morrison requires both an understanding of how to step back and analyse a one-off snapshot of the organisation but also how to engage and interact with it as it evolves. For example, how can you visualise data in different ways to get new perspectives and insights? How can you get different business owners to engage and get new value from organisational by gamifying data collection and ownership? How can you increase collaboration across work streams to engage areas of the business with the design and help increase the odds of success during a project? Through macro and micro design phases to making a design real, organisation design requires analytics and visualisations to inspire new perspectives and track changes while being a collaborative journey, engaging people throughout.
Visual design brings it home
As reflected throughout the event, organisation design practice must accommodate the need of modern day organisations – flexible, agile and dynamic. It needs to look beyond the walls of org charts and reporting lines. Blending the science of data analytics and art of visual communication, organisation design must bring impactful changes to the way things are done and how people perform in a changing environment, as it is the only way to build a sustainable competitive advantage.
For more information on Concentra Analytics’ work with several key partners in the Netherlands, including our plans to provide OrgVue across Europe, please reach out to me on firstname.lastname@example.org
You can order Rupert Morrison’s Data-driven Organisation Design book here.
Want to know more about HR analytics and network with other professionals in the field? Sign up here to our London HR Analytics Evening on Thursday 9th June 2016.
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