Archive for the 'Politics at Work' Category

Star Wars Can Teach Us About Org Structure?

This time I go through a scene from the TV show Andor…so it’s better to watch me do this on video.  To do that, click here.

And if you can’t…I’ll go through it now.

Have you seen the show Andor?  I’ll bet you didn’t know there’s a lesson in there about organisational structure!

The show is part of the Star Wars pantheon, but it’s different.  Deeper, and goes right into the effects of colonisation, imperialism and how that can turn individuals. 

And…we get to see what’s called the Imperial Security Bureau in action, which we can picture as an Executive Team of an organisation.  Here they are:

The scene I go through is a meeting of the ‘Supervisors’, who are the equivalent to Executives, with the boss being Major Partagaz who we might say is the CEO.

Read more…

More Projects Delivered with Less Stress – Part 2: The Practicalities

Prefer to watch rather than read?   Click here, five minutes, with captions.

Last time I went through the principles which simply let you deliver more projects with less stress.

Yes, totally true.  Read it here.

The super-short summary is that by lining them up and focusing on finishing instead of starting, you get benefits earlier which lowers stress and interruption, while also reducing switching cost.  It’s one of the key aspects of the method I call The Project Factory.™  

Here’s a picture of the principle:

I finished by saying: “I know what you’re thinking – ‘great, but that’s not how the real world works’

I know – I live in it too.  Which is why there’s a Part II to this article coming soon…”

Which is what you’re reading right now.

Read more…

No Discord at Work – Lessons from Jerry

The show Seinfeld was known to be a reasonably harmonious set, a ‘lack of discord’.  When Jerry Seinfeld was asked a few weeks ago why he thought that was the case by life-maximiser Tim Ferriss on his podcast , he gave an answer that was startling in its simplicity:

Tim: To what would you attribute that lack of discord?

Jerry: I don’t like discord.

You probably don’t like it either, right?  But what do you actually do?

Jerry continued:

Jerry: I don’t like it, and I am fearless in rooting it out and solving it.  And if anyone’s having a problem, I’m going to walk right up to them and go “Is there a problem?  Let’s talk about this”.  Because I cannot stand that kind of turmoil.

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Work Models You Need To Know: Ep.3 – POSITIVE POLITICS

If you’d like to watch this as a video instead of reading, just click here.

Politics in the workplace.  Not generally considered a good thing.  But it’s as real as the wind is reality if you’re in a sailing boat.  We need an angle if we’re going to get things done so we can earn our keep.

We can get that angle from the work of Peter Block and his model which I call his ‘Positive Politics’ model.  Not only will it help you make sense of the political relationships going on in your workplace, it gives us some strategies to make things better.

You can find this model in his brilliant book The Empowered Manager.  It’s one of the classics, now in a second edition.


First, some origins.  The word ‘politics’ comes from the Greek word ‘politikos’ which includes the words for ‘citizen’ and ‘city’.   Change ‘city’ to ‘organisation’ and you can see that any time you try to start, stop or keep something going in an organisation…it’s a political act.

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Business Partnering – It’s So Hot Right Now!

Click here to watch this in a 5-minute video!

On the agenda of every corporate services area, be it IT, HR, Finance or the more modern incarnations of business improvement and innovation….is business partnering.

But there’s a lot more to this than good intentions and writing it down in a plan.  Here’s what’s required to get to this to work.

‘Business Partnering’

First – what are we on about?  I like to use the ideas we can find in Patrick Hoverstadt and Lucy Loh’s book Patterns of Strategy, where they describe in detail the strategy of ‘Strategic Partner’.  One of the supplier family of strategies, this is where we look to cause change in the other partner for the benefit of both of us.

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The Disgruntled Masses – How to Change the Unchangeable

Prefer to watch than read?  You can click here to watch me go through this on video

The disgruntled masses – the groups in your organisation that are locked into staying the same, staying disappointed, and no lever is long enough to jemmy them free.  This article is about what’s going on and the strategy to get things moving.

Barry Oshry’s Organic Systems Framework

The Organic Systems Framework of Barry Oshry helps us see what’s going on.  He shows how we can see organisations as social systems, and through running week-long live-in simulations with groups for over 40 years, has seen the same consistent patterns emerge again and again. 

Read more…

“You can’t talk to my people” is NOT Requisite!!!

Exit Sign


I’ve heard that principles of Requisite Organisation mean that people can’t talk to people in other teams without checking with the manager first.  This seems to be against all modern ways of working together as an organisation, so just wanted to check in with you as I know you are an expert in this model.


I’m very glad you checked.  First principles, ‘Requisite’ means ‘what is required’ and in our model, which we call Requisite Enterprise as it uses these principles among others, it’s about designing and leading work so it’s fulfilling for customers, employees, beneficiaries and the planet.

This means that a way of working that causes frustration and disintegration of relationships is never going to be requisite in our model.  Saying ‘you can’t talk to them without checking with me first‘ is therefore obviously not part of what we teach in our workshops and online.

The Managerial Relationship

But…we can acknowledge where this comes from.  We use the Elliott Jaques idea of making managers accountable for their teams serving their customers (internal or external), and so give managers the authority to ultimately decide the way ‘work works’ and who does what in their area if that’s required.  This is called authority to ‘assign’ work.  And we describe the relationship between Managers and the team members using the Jaques term ‘Task Assigning Role Relationships’ or ‘TARRs’.  (BTW…we insist that before decisions managers also get the input of all those effected as an absolute minimum)

It is, however, a mistake to therefore think that this authority to ‘assign work’ means ‘a person may only do work directly assigned by their manager’, or even further ‘only the manager may talk to this person about work’. Read more…

Eliminate change management

Positive change

We all know the usual routine – management identifies the need for more productivity and/or quality or a new strategy, the necessary actions are identified (internally, externally or a combination of both), this necessitates change, so now we ‘change manage’.

And it works……at best…..sometimes.

What we’re really doing here is coercing people to like the change we’ve decided on.  We’re doing change to them.

What if instead we did change with them?

As Peter Block says,

when someone states ‘we need to get everyone on board‘, the answer is ‘what makes you think you’re in the boat?

Imagine if, instead of management calling in the external experts, it went the other way around and the frontline team approached management and said

We’re out of ideas.  But if you can find $50k for those improvement consultants we were speaking to last week, we reckon we can work with them and find about $200k per year savings back to the business‘.

Would this require ‘change management’? Read more…

51% – the brilliantly simple concept to start creating real commitment

Read it on stairs (2)

There’s an element that gets overlooked when you set up your organisation with the right number of levels (yes, there is a right number, but that’s a different post), and when you make sure that the people in the roles will be able to add value at the level that the role requires.  You get a natural feeling of release or ‘that feels better’ as some of the key conditions that create micromanagement or disconnection are now dealt with.

Couple in some training about what the unique value-add of each level is, and we’re well on the way toward an enterprise that can seriously get things done, both today’s work, and tomorrow’s.  If you’d like some research on this, and no less than 50 years’ worth is good enough for you, check out the work of Elliott Jaques.  We use it because it works.

But there’s a darker side.

In the process of defining ‘levels’, the human need for dominance rears it’s head.  I’m talking about the idea that “I’m at a higher ‘level’, therefore I know better than you”.  Don’t get me wrong, most times this isn’t evil, and comes through as genuine caring for ‘your’ people.  But the very act of assuming you know what’s best for someone else….how comfortable are you with being on the receiving end of that?

Yet, we need people who can think in longer timespans so we’re OK in the future.  And we need people who can make things work right now so we’re OK right now.  We need all of these things for a successful business.  Hierarchy is actually natural.

So what do we do?

What we do is move to the mindset described by Peter Block as Partnering not Parenting. Read more…

The real foundation of your cross-functional issues

Does the discussion in your meetings often turn toward other departments and how they are letting you down?  Actually, why am I even posing that as a question?  Let me start again:

When the discussion in your next meeting turns toward why and how other departments are letting you down, trying saying this:

Sounds like we’ve got ourselves an org design issue.

You can predict the response: “What do you mean org design?  They know what they are there to do.  They should just do their job and deliver“.

But here’s what’s missed….the other area is staffed by people just like your team is.  And they’re probably putting in some sort of effort just like your team is.  And they probably know how to do their job about as good as your team knows how to do theirs.

So the problem isn’t the other department.  The problem is that what the other department sees itself as accountable for differs from what your team thinks it should be accountable for.

And what do you call the work of sorting out what departments and roles are going to be accountable for?  Organisational design.

It’s what sits at the foundation of your organisational issues.  It’s the key to developing your organisation.

But you won’t see it until you see  it.