What's the killer stalking your organisation? It isn't disruption.

The first blog post in a new series to accompany our latest research topic of 'Design for Speed'.

Change and disruption are as likely to be opportunities as they are threats.  Which of the two they are depends on how – and most importantly how fast – you respond to them. Help us crowd-source the best ways to respond fast.

Most organisations aren’t designed in a way that supports strategic speed.  Instead, most are designed to optimise the balance between cost and control, with the organisation’s strategic response speed determined by what’s left over. 

However, the big threat to your organisation isn’t that its costs are too high, or that it’s controls aren’t 100%.  The big threat is that the world changes faster than you can respond, so you become increasingly irrelevant (at which point costs do become an issue, and control weaknesses do come to the fore).

Instead of seeking to optimise cost and control, an alternative is to set reasonable constraints on cost and control, and then within them to design your organisation for speed.

Such a major organisational change would only make sense if your ability to respond wasn’t quick enough. Chances are that it isn’t.  Organisational design for strategic speed is a very new area, so most organisations won’t know how fast they are, nor have anyone responsible for it.  Equally, most organisations aren’t moving as fast as they would like, nor as fast as they need to be.  But, there are things you can and should do. 

We first started thinking about this topic a few months ago in response to an inquiry from a potential client who wanted to know how they could change their organisation structure to increase the speed of their change projects.  Naturally, we developed some suggestions for them – but we also researched to see what others are doing about this.

We found very little on the topic, beyond lots on “agility” (which is a related but somewhat more limited concept).  So, we’ve decided to organise an “open source” effort to learn more about “Design for Speed” – and to share what we learn.  Here are the sorts of questions we are looking to answer:

  • Who should be responsible for organisational performance? Who tends to be today – even if  informally?
  • How can we tell if an organisation isn’t responding fast enough? What are the warning signs?
  • How can we usefully measure speed of strategic response? (We have an approach, but we want to see how generally applicable it is.)
  • What do we know already about approaches to increasing organisational speed? Are there “tweaks” that can be made that have a big impact on speed, or is a fundamental rebuilding needed?
  • Is there a reliable process for redesigning an organisation for speed? 

If you are interested in this topic, here are some ways we would love to have you involved:

  1. Join the Linked In group.
  2. Participate in one or more of our “Design for Speed” roundtable discussions to explore this in more depth.
  3. Share what your organisation is doing to improve organisational (strategic) speed – or any of the components of the strategic response cycle.
  4. Point us towards good examples of what others are saying about Design for Speed (or other related topics).
  5. Ask to attend one of our breakfast seminars where we share a bit more about the Design for Speed idea, and you have a chance to discuss it will other business leaders.
  6. Introduce us to the person in your organisation who has responsibility for (or should be interested in) organisational speed.
  7. Let us know you are interested and would like to be part of activities (yet to be defined) in future.

And, please do feel free to share these thoughts and ideas with others you know who might find them of interest.

Until next time!

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