Tag: organisation

NPO: What (and where) next?

Noble Purpose No Comments

Time for a short pause in this daily series on Noble Purpose Organisations.

I will be back soon – with a case study, to be run as a mini-series over a number of instalments.

This is partly written. However, I would like your questions and challenges to complete it.

The story explores the tale of Bart, Elizabeth, Jenni and Jean-Paul. Four people with very different roles and lengths of service in (the fictitious and factious) anti-malaria campaigning charity Malfly.

What would you like to learn through their tale?


Noble word association

Noble Purpose No Comments

Noble work

Organisational work

Noble Purpose

Noble Organisations

Purposeful Organisations

Noble purpose organisations.


NPO, a research agenda?

Noble Purpose No Comments

1. How far it is true that “organisations with a compelling mission tend to risk bad behaviours internally”? How far are the ‘shadows’ of co-workers a feature of noble workplaces?
2. Does it matter about being nice to each other if you have noble intentions? How far does a ‘toxic’ culture actually hamper the achievement of core goals?
3. What are the best ways to establish a family foundation to ensure the risks of the Noble Purpose Organisation Paradox are not institutionalised from the start?
4. Are the challenges of boosting productivity in public services largely due to the NPO paradox – or simply due to the context of the sector or ineffective leadership?
5. How far are NPOs more at risk of group think and team dynamics degenerating to chaos and entropy?



NPO Thinking: Getting and staying on the Front Foot, served Four Ways

Noble Purpose No Comments

There are four things that are needed for a successful organisation, see the cycle and the balance – and do note the colours.

When one of these is missing, stuff happens (or actually, it doesn’t), see here

When the 4 aspects are in place, the fullest wheel is ‘invented’ – see the 4 colours again

And see this application of these 4 elements for a team you might know.


The Reinforcing of some front foot assumptions for NPOs

Front foot, Noble Purpose No Comments

I like this blog by my former colleague Stuart on the ideas and inspiration he has received from Michael Bungay Stainer

A great example of curiosity and creativity.

I like the 3 dimensions for Great Work – maybe as they reinforce some of my beliefs of what is needed for successful, front foot, Noble Purpose Organisations:
– Focus (direction)
– Courage (momentum and coordination)
– Resilience (balance)


Responsible…for the conference call?

Meetings No Comments

You probably saw this funny illustration of a conference call earlier this year.

What it doesn’t pick up is the even more frustrating system that is sometimes used!

The video assumes the dial in method.

The other is the ‘dialled in’ – where some poor person (often a hapless PA) dials people in to the clever switchboard computer that connects the voices. The downside? The need to keep redialling as those on mobile phones keep losing signal strength or when someone is not available.

The most robust system? The one with higher responsibly. The dial in one.

A useful metaphor for most organisations – decentralising power is likely to increase performance…giving control to the margins, to the team.

…promoting responsibility for customer service, strategy, team performance – rather than centralised action and mandates.

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Race for…remembering

Feedback, Improvement No Comments

I was watching Race for Life in Cambridge yesterday. I enjoy cheering on various family members and friends (plus those doing especially well, dressed creatively or struggling too). It is a moving time watching women of all ages push themselves in memory of people they know or have known.

As I was clapping, a pretty hard looking guy strolled past with a tough looking dog, who proceeded to foul the pavement (the dog, not the guy). With this blog in mind, I wondered what we would do, and what I should think of doing too (see this).

Secondly, a woman went past complaining loudly about charities generally and especially those that raise money on the streets: “I hear they are dreadful and waste most of what you give”. This reminded me of our ideas on Noble Purpose Organisations. My plan before writing the book is to present and test the overall argument in a number of 60-90 minute interactive sessions (complete with stories, concepts and suggested actions) this autumn. Please let me know if you know anyone who might be interested. I will then write this into an article or pamphlet before any book…thanks to those of you who feedback ideas that have informed this route.

And the guy with the dog?…well, he stopped, got a little bag out of his back pocket and picked up the mess. Really times have changed…I find that example very encouraging for making change in our lives, teams and societies. And you?

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On language and meetings

Meetings No Comments

This short, provocative piece sums up prevailing attitudes to meetings, and the sort of words used in conversations, in many organisations.

How we talk together is, in various settings, a key part of what makes us human – both 1:1 and in groups.

Meetings can be energising, relevant…

We think.

Do you agree?

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The 13 Ps for Perfect Meetings

Plan No Comments

You know of our love for alliteration (see the penultimate section) – and checklists!  Combining the two, you have had the 7Ps…now the 13Ps to help you perfect the planning for important meetings and events (the investment depends on how important they are and their scale):

1. Personal skills: what can you do (and what can’t you manage)…fill this self-assessment in on the basis of events you have led.
2. Personal preferences: think of great large events you have been to (from festivals and weddings to work ones)…what made them special?
3. Past: What is the context, history and story so far for this meeting?
4. Purpose: questions, aims, outcomes….what is the unique purpose?
5. Potential risks: what possible problems might there be…where might it go horribly wrong?
6. Pre-ordained: What is given by any leaders…what is non-negotiable? What must you do (or not to do)? What is your freedom to decide?
7. People: Thinking of participants, who is coming (or who would you like to come)?
8. Place: What is the venue, date, day of the week…what are the logistical options, costs and fixed points? How can you work around what you have if not ideal? See this for seating and other options.
9. Pre–work: what sort of survey, interviews or vox pop would research the range of opinion efficiently and clearly? Do you need to do more work searching for speakers, consultants, a better venue and thinking of how you use social media as a design team?
10. Principles: What is the style of the event you (or if working with others, the design team or leaders) want? How much of the meeting should be familiar – and how fresh would you like the experience to be? What is the degree of fixed structure and/or open flexibility you are looking to provide?
11. Process: Only now come to the agenda including online elements and connections – resist the urge to jump to here at the start!
12. Practice: what new elements are important to rehearse; are there any speakers to prep?
13. Post-event: What sort of record, gift or keeping in touch strategy do you want…plan this from the start (like how the best hospitals plan discharge – from the moment someone knows they will need to be admitted!)

In leading this planning work, especially for large meetings, try to get the triangle right in combining and balancing the views of senior leaders and staff and the potential (and barriers) the venue presents.

Good Luck!!

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Learning in action

Improvement, Organisations No Comments

We are used to hearing modern gurus claim how they can help the improvement of organisations. Many are from abroad and some pretty recent. Their books are in airport shops – and promoted by online retailers.

Looking back provides inspiration too, we believe. One of us has a passion for going back to the wisdom of the ancients (for example). More recently, in the immediate post war period, there were three things happening that are having a major impact in organisations still today – two of these developed first in the UK and were closely aligned to the health service in England.

At the time American academic Deming was popularising his important ideas in Japan, the ‘Tavistock’ approach to applying psychodynamic principles to groups and organisations was becoming well established in London.

We find the legacy of Deming important especially his PDCA model.  His work underpins most modern approaches to Continuous Improvement from the rebranded and practical PDSA cycle to lean and measurement more widely (see this previous blog).

The influence of the Tavistock approach underpins many contemporary approaches to organisational development – especially those that consider the ‘shadow’: the hidden, the avoided, the projected and the pathological in groups. We try to bring these insights in to our work in ways that don’t demotivate and are in balance (see p6 here).

The second UK Contribution, which is possibly less well known than these two traditions, is that of Reg Revans, which he also developed and tested in the NHS after early success in the coal industry. We use this inspiration in much of our work: in asking good questions, in peer review methods and clear 5-30-90 day action cycles. It is at the heart of our year long, 4 stage ‘Team XYZ’ approach: supporting a senior group to improve though the introduction and use of various frameworks, tools and the spirit of experimentation.

The Revans’ approach to action learning makes an interesting read. One of his legacies is that some people in some UK organisations now have experience of being in a ‘learning set’. Do you want to give it a go?

Try this checklist for a 45minute or so action learning session – think of it as peer coaching:

1) Meet with a small group of volunteer colleagues – or peers from other teams/organisations.

2) Take it in turns to have a go/‘take the seat’ – rotating the facilitation of the process too.

3) For 5 minutes share a challenge or question in your work, succinctly allowing questions for clarification only.

4) Move seats so you are sitting on a chair out of the group, but where you can hear clearly.

5) Allow the group to talk for 20-30 minutes: they can share their guesses or hypotheses of what is going on in your case or issue initially (Deep Think style) – and then move to listing questions for you to consider and they might  even note possible ideas for action for you (to post its, flip chart etc).

6) You re-join the group and for 5-10 minutes describe what you took from the conversation – you don’t have to correct their misunderstandings (allowing their ‘phantasies’ (sic) in the spirit of the Tavi!). You might want to commit to a PDSA or 5-30-90 action plan.

7) A more open final 5-10 minutes discussion can help to round off the session.

We find versions of this process work well in groups of all seniorities and sectors: from considering how to be more influential in a team to completing a project; from to managing personal energy to trying to challenge organisational culture. Let us know how it goes…

A couple of final thoughts:

First we note the use of mathematical abbreviations for management models in the 50s (DxVxF>R, PDCA, L=P+Q)…a sign of the(ir) times.

Second, we like this quote from Voltaire: “The best way to become boring is to say everything” –- so, whilst this is a longish blog (with lots of links!), there is lots more that could be stated and shared. Please ask if you have more questions…

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