Every firm in the land seeks what we might call positive business outcomes. In most businesses, people drive those outcomes. And managers seek change in those people. Unsure of organisational change? Model it!
Normally, when talking about growth, it’s growth in profits to reward risk taken by investors. But it’s not always that. Some seek more altruistic goals such as development of staff or the delivery of service to the vulnerable. And some seek longer-term investment and aim to build intrinsic value through new product and service development.
Whatever the goals, the route to the business outcomes is pretty similar. It involves identifying the desirable business outcomes and determining what operational outcomes will secure them. There are generally two sources of operational improvement – change in capital employed or change in people. Some projects can involve capital investment but, generally, once the infrastructure is in place, subsequent change is through staff-centred improvement.
These improvements might concern introducing new technology for staff to use, scrapping of old equipment and better use of new, losing poorly performing staff, sub-contracting non-core jobs, changing the employment contract and better labour utilisation coming from job re-design.
To gain the desired operational outcomes, managers must speculate about what personal outcomes in staff will make these operational outcomes happen. They must speculate about what staff-centred improvement to invest in.
And that leads us to a possible blockage in the process of growth. How does a manager determine what to do?
If a designer was building a transatlantic sailing yacht and he or she had to determine if a bigger sail or a sleeker hull would make the yacht go faster, we’d all respond instantly ‘try it – build a model’. We’d all have the designer build a scale model of each option and test them in a tank of water.
So why not do the same with the firm?
Unsure of Organisational Change? Model it!
Modelling in organisational development is a well-established science. It involves building a model of the organisation, perhaps using process-modelling techniques. There are maybe 20 different modelling techniques available – which to use depends on the scenario. The organisation can be modelled before and after change. So the managers need simply speculate what changes will work and try them in the model. Whichever yields the best outcome is the most likely to succeed.
Now, if it was that easy, every manager would be modelling and improving. There’s a bit more to it and in future articles, the focus will be on some of the specifics of modelling to gain benefits like enhanced staff flexibility and greater staff commitment in pursuit of operational outcomes.