Why do you use this ‘requisite’ stuff?

“So you’re telling me you want to help me to get my 1,500 people to align behind delivering the strategy I’ve put in place and you’re going to use thinking from the 1950s?”

It was a fair point!  I’d known Mary for a while, she loved to learn by challenging.  ”Let me ask you this.” I ventured carefully.  ”Would you say gravity existed in the 1950s?”


“And would you say it’s a relevant principle to be observed by those doing work that involves things falling?”


“And do you know when Newton first put forward his concept of gravity?”

“Well I know it wasn’t yesterday” said Mary.  ”When was it?”

“It was the late 1600s.” I answered.  ”So anyone using gravity is using principles that were first written about over 300 years ago.  And they are still using them today.  So I wouldn’t call that an old theory, I’d be more likely to call that a well-founded and useful theory”.

“But Einstein showed that a lot of Newton’s work wasn’t quite right didn’t he?”

“Sure….if you’re getting near the speed of light Newton doesn’t hold up so good.  And particularly if you’re Neo and you swallow the red pill.  But remember, when we’re choosing principles, it’s about which ones work best in terms of explaining and predicting what’s going on.  And Newton’s law of gravity does a pretty good job in most cases.”

“OK….so what’s this got to do with the price of eggs?”

“Well, let me go back one more step first.  Did gravity exist before Newton?”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean, were things floating around all over the place until that supposed apple happened to hit Newton on the scone, then suddenly he wrote stuff down and things stuck to the ground?”

“I see what you’re getting at.  Connect the dots for me”.

“The principles we use explain why organisations are going the way they are and predict how they are likely to go in the future in terms of letting their people deliver effectively and allow them to use their full capabilities.  The principles were always there.  A guy called Elliott Jaques pieced a lot of it together, others such as Gillian Stamp, another researcher named Luc Hoebeke and countless more all combine to uncover the principles of how human capability works within organisations, and how to arrange and organise things so people can do their best work.”


“Yep uncovered.  As in, things were observed, hypotheses formed, observations made, then hypotheses rejected or confirmed.  Get enough confirmations and we start to have principles, get enough principles and we start to have a theory.  And that’s what we use.”

“A theory.”

“Yep, a theory.  A model.  A lens that you can use to diagnose what’s going on in your organisation that looks specifically at how your people are organised to either release or block their capability, and how well your leadership goes about ensuring that capability is allowed to be used.”

“From the 50s?”

Starting in the 50s.  And even earlier.   So we now have over 70 years of people learning then applying the concepts and continually refining and improving them.”

“And this is Requisite Organisation?”

“Well, Requisite Organisation is a term coined by and is the title of a book written by the late Elliott Jaques that was most recently reprinted in 2006.  In it, he defines a ‘requisite organisation’ as one that is set up to allow it’s people to deliver.  To be creative, innovative and gets things done. All that stuff that’s fashionable right now.  And the reason it does so is that it follows natural principles, ‘as required’ by the nature of work itself.”

“And you use these principles?”

“We base our work on them.  And other huge thinkers I mentioned before such as Gillian Stamp who brings an amazing warmth and appreciation to the body of work, and many more ”

“Why them?  Why not use the other stuff that’s around.  There’s no shortage of fancy stuff”

“Because it is the best model we know to explain the underlying causes of organisational dysfunction and how to go about fixing them.  Because it assumes that people fundamentally want to do good work, and that people deserve the opportunity to do what they can.  I like that.  And I like that it’s not a fad.”

“Well that doesn’t sound so bad.” said Mary, then sat back.

After a while, she leaned forward again:  ”But what about all the acronyms?”

I laughed.  ”They could probably do with some improving”.

Adam is a partner of The Working Journey a niche consultancy that designs organisations into creative accountable enterprises that deliver...using ideas such as you just read. Want to chat? Send him an email by clicking here.

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