The Organisational Design Forum

First Meeting Highlights OD's Broad Scope and Potential - October 2012

Frazer Jones’ OD Network hosted the inaugural meeting of the Organisational Design Forum last Thursday, 18th October. The Forum provides a networking and round-table event for senior OD and HR professionals. Its creation reflects the rapidly growing interest and importance attaching to OD as an efficiency and profit driver for business and the need for HR to proactively support this.

The Forum brought together over 25 senior managers from a wide range of industries and companies including BP, Pfizer, BT. Guest speaker was Jeff Roberts of BAT, whose experience as Global Head of OD amply qualified him to share his knowledge of what works in practice (and, sometimes, what doesn't).

Jeff explained the wide scope of OD's potential contribution to a business, covering operating model design, restructuring, organisational metrics and standards, particularly relating to BAT’s transition to a global operating model. He also stressed that good OD can cover a lot of ground and needs to be prepared to dig deep into most areas of a company - so it's no role for shrinking violets or silo-thinkers. A good OD professional needs to be able to “roam free and invade other people’s turf.”

Jeff emphasized that "clarity is key" - ruthless clarity about just what problems you are setting out to solve and how OD techniques can be applied. He emphasised how important it is to know exactly what problem you are trying to solve.

Asking questions is vital for OD. It is very easy to overcomplicate the process of design and restructure – or to hold on to preconceived ideas. So keep asking those questions, especially the ones people don’t want to be asked.

He concluded that OD was a great opportunity for HR to support the wider business, partly because it required the stitching together of so many domains.

Jeff's warmly-appreciated address sparked questions and comments covering a number of topics. An interesting focus was on the choice between in-house OD and its use in a consultancy role – what clearly emerged was that in-house OD can only really work with the complete support of the senior management. BAT’s project has the understanding of the company’s top 200 leaders. Consultancies can provide good insight into a business’ shape and structure, but it can be too easy to hide behind them when actually making the changes to a business.

Some further areas of discussion included the value of training Internal Audit to see what good change looks like rather than just ensuring processes are followed. This helps change be firmly embedded in the business.

Communication was also highlighted as key with several guests interested in how to communicate change strategy to the business. Jeff believes that the most important thing is to be honest. Don’t sugar coat the information. If you need to tell someone that they will be losing much of their autonomy, do so! People will get over it far faster than realising that they are losing out over a longer time scale.

Following very positive feedback from the event, Frazer Jones will continue to host further quarterly sessions of the The Organisational Design Forum and welcomes any expressions of interest and ideas for topics from potential future speakers or participants.

For further information, or to discuss you own needs or opportunities in OD, please contact: