Diamond Structure – the one for professional services

Prefer to watch on video than read?  Click here – 3 mins with captions.

Traditional hierarchy looks like this – a pyramid (and BTW it’s a very appropriate organising principle for many, many situations, so don’t feel guilty if you’re running one or in one).

Work Levels

The hierarchy shows us which roles have the job of being accountable for other roles…but it also can be used to show us what Elliott Jaques discovered as different levels of work.  I’ve drawn them in here…

Read more…

The Team Leader Role – How to Set it Up to Work

Prefer to watch on video than read?  Click here – 5 mins with captions.

The Team Leader role.  Called lots of things – sometimes ‘Team Leader’, older-school names are ‘Supervisor’ and ‘Leading Hand’, modern names are ‘Coordinator’.

Then we have the Manager role.  Sometimes called that, often now called ‘Team Leader’ because management has  apparently become evil, and in the US this role can be called ‘Supervisor’. 

And before you get started on ‘hierarchy is bad’, remember that most of us work in hierarchies, and it remains the optimal structure in many situations.

If it’s run well.  Which is what this is about.

Read more…

Compression! Fix a major source of pain in your organisation

Want to watch this on video rather than read?  Just click here.  5 mins, with captions.

Today’s article goes through one of the most common causes of organisational pain.  A sore back is guaranteed to make people grumpy, and compression is a great way to give your organisation some proper spinal issues.

Now, a big proviso.  Organisational hierarchies are very out of fashion right now.  Here’s three things though:

  1. You’re in one, changing them is hard, and you might as well make the obvious changes to make the thing work properly
  2. There are many, many situations where a well-run managerial hierarchy is very much the most appropriate organisational design
  3. Hierarchies get a bad rap because of the exact sort of issue I am going to go through in this article.  Fix these, and….hierarchies might just work fine!

OK, let’s get on with it.

Read more…

The real work is (often) not about the system

My work with my clients who have built their own businesses often looks like org design and work systems.

But that’s just the surface.

Someone who is talented and entrepreneurial enough to build a business from their own kitchen table to being able to cover the lease agreement for offices that house 30+ staff has no trouble understanding the work.

That’s not the issue, and heading to another seminar, or listening to someone like me describe what has to happen is not going help.  It’s the equivalent of reading more recipe books as a method to get some food on the table.

The challenge is to see this work as the business priority.  And there are multiple signals available that can be used as a way to put this work off until later.  Cash flow is a great one, and might even be the case.  Organising a group of people to do great work is definitely no longer an issue if we can’t make payroll.  Pressing needs of what we might call ‘pillar’ clients is another.

Read more…

The simple yet powerful meeting structure

You need to focus on today. You need to focus on tomorrow. You need engagement from your people to get both done.

Nothing here you don’t already know.  So….

Need a method? Just schedule these meetings. Things will be better.

Weekly: Optimisation meeting.

Get together to look at graphs that show performance according to customer experience, cost and sustainability. Resolve issues and monitor the effects of changes you have been making.

The question here: how do we make this show run as it was intended? 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…

A Talk – Designing for Quality Leadership

Adam ACSA May 2017

Something different this time around – a talk!  I spoke recently at the Leadership, Culture and Governance Symposium put on by Aged & Community Services Australia in Adelaide.

The topic – Designing for Quality Leadership   The point?  Leadership depends as much on your organisational design as it does the people in the jobs, so….stop fidgeting and start building something! 

Click here to watch.  Goes for about 40 minutes, and sorry about the hissing at the start – that blissfully goes away at 4:15.

It’s the stuff we teach in detail in our workshops and our online learning so you can design departments and enterprises where people can do great work.

And…if you’d like to see what was on the screen, or want the super-quick version,  click here to see the slides.  I’ve written short explanations on many of them so they make sense even without the presentation itself.

Feel free to download and distribute the slides to those who might be interested if you think it might help create a conversation that makes your place better.

Thanks to Derek Dittrich from ACSA and Tim Levett for the video production.

As always, if there is anything I can help with, just let me know.


Cross-functional work – a method for getting it sorted


I was wondering if I might be able to seek your guidance on sorting out cross-functional relationships.  Is there a process you suggest we follow so we can really sort ourselves out so we can be a better organisation for both customers and employees?


Very glad you asked – getting clear in this area is about not forcing people to rely on favours and politics to get their basic work done.  It’s a service to our fellow humans!

Cross-functional roles, or ‘Task-Initiating Role Relationships’ (TIRRs) as Elliott Jaques referred to them are how work gets done.  We tend to to see the org chart as reality, when it’s actually just a visual representation of who reports to who, and what each person is there to deliver.  In reality all work is passed on to someone, either internal or external – so all work is some sort of flow, which means…it mostly goes across.

This means that it’s one of the fundamental accountabilities of every manager to set up how work ‘works’ in their area.  And a crucial part of this is the TIRRs.

So how do we do this?  First we start with WHO.

We teach in our workshops and our online learning that 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 simple principle that keeps large groups connected

“OK, so what have we found?” asked Kathy, CEO of a mid-size manufacturer, about 1600 people.

“We’ve found a possible cause of the issues coming out of your Eastern plant” I replied, putting on the table a diagram known as a Levels of Work Analysis.  The diagram is like an X-Ray for organisational design – it shows clearly the cracks and splinters in the org design itself that are causing frustration and lack of delivery.

Kathy leaned forward and pointed at the clearly marked red areas.  “What’s going on there?”

“I need to give you a quick bit of lingo” I said.  “We use some fundamental principles that, if in place, will see frustration down and delivery up.  One of these is about having what we call building blocks in place to make sure that our natural need for connection isn’t accidentally designed out.”

Kathy’s eyebrows went up.  I waited to check I was making sense.  “Go on” she said.

“The first building block is the basic team structure.   But above that we have the wider structure, or the three-tier structure.  The fancy term for it Elliott Jaques coined was the ‘Mutual Recognition Unit’, or ‘MRU’.”

“Fancy indeed” Kathy commented.  “So how does this help me?” Read more…