9th November 2018
Sam Dods

Find out how healthy your organisation is here

How’s business? Everything on track to achieve all your goals? Or are you facing a few challenges? And if you are facing challenges how do you know where to focus your effort?

Businesses and the environment in which they operate are evolving at an increasing rate so the challenges they face are constantly changing.

We’ve created a survey to help you understand the health of your organisation; helping you identify its strengths and weaknesses so that you can focus your effort into the most relevant area of your business.

Why bother?

Peace of mind. It’s as simple as that. This survey gives you an independent overview of the health of your business so that you can stop worrying about it and focus on what will make a difference to your business.

And the more people that complete the survey in your business, the better because confidence in the findings increases and people get more engaged in dealing with the challenges when they’re asked for their opinion.

Once you start putting steps in place to address the challenges the survey can also be used periodically to track progress.

How does it work?

Businesses and the environments in which they operate are complex so there are numerous models like the Galbraith Star Model or Holonic Enterprise Model and measurement approaches such as European Foundation for Quality Management or the Baldrige Award.

They all have different pros and cons and can used for very large complex organisations but none of them are applicable to all businesses, so we’ve developed a simple pragmatic approach based on 3 key factors: direction, design and dynamics – each with their own sub-factors:

1. Direction: Where are we going and why?
1.1. Purpose: The reason an organisation exists – its vision and mission.
1.2. Strategy: High level approaches to move the organisation towards achieving its purpose.
1.3. Plans: The “who”, “what” and “when” of the business.
1.4. Customer needs: How do we serve our customers? Which of their pain points do we relieve?

2. Design: How do we organise ourselves to achieve our direction?
2.1. Process: What tasks need to be done in what order to satisfy business objectives?
2.2. Structure: How do we structure ourselves to carry out the processes necessary to satisfy customer needs?
2.3.Systems: The tools needed to support delivery of our offering as effectively as possible – such as CRM and ERP.

3. Dynamics: How does it feel to work for and with our organisation?
3.1. Values: Which behaviours are important to us?
3.2. Beliefs: Conscious and unconscious ideas that motivate our behaviour.
3.3. Teams: The foundation for high-performing teams.

Each of these is briefly described below

1. Direction

An inspirational, clear and well communicated sense of direction including purpose, strategy, plans and customer needs is essential for success; playing an important part in guiding and prioritising organisational effort.

1.1. Purpose

A clear organisational purpose sets out its reason for existing – the change in the world it aims to bring about (“Vision”), and the “Big Hairy Audacious Goal” required to deliver this vision (the “Mission”). This helps customers and investors to understand and “buy in” to what the organisation does. It inspires and motivates current and future employees. And it informs strategy, forcing focus and alignment on hard decisions and the prioritisation of resources.

1.2. Strategy

Strategy is a description of how your organisation will “win”, or prevail, given the circumstances it finds itself in – the next steps in delivering its vision. A strategy describes the activities which must be achieved to seize opportunities and overcome challenges.

1.3. Plans

Planning is the detailed process of fleshing out the activities required to deliver the strategy – who will do what, by when. This demonstrates that the resources are available to deliver the strategy and provides a framework to hold employees accountable for delivery. It identifies risks and dependencies, and it helps the organisation to execute effectively.

1.4. Customer needs

Identifying customer needs and expressing them in a value proposition allows the organisation to understand how its products and services meet those needs. This is required for marketing to generate demand for products and services, and for sales to convert that demand into paying customers. It drives product-market fit within product design and development, and it also provides an impetus for new product and service development.

2. Design

Organisational design is a holistic approach to designing an organisations’ processes, structure and systems to achieve its direction and dynamics aims. The design needs to be able to adapt to present and future changes from inside and outside the organisation, ensuring optimal experiences for both customers, employees and other stakeholders.

2.1. Process

Business processes are a collection of linked tasks that, once completed, accomplish specific organisational objectives. These processes should all contribute directly or indirectly to the value of a customer product or service. The degree to which they need to be formalised and embedded in electronic systems such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) systems is determined by the nature of the work being done, legislation and customer expectations.

2.2. Structure

Organisational structures determine how people are organised to work; tasks are allocated to roles which are related to each other in arrangements such as functional, divisional, matrix and flat structures. These structures determine how roles relate to each other to coordinate work and the mechanisms used to motivate people. All aspects of the structure need to be aligned with organisational values to ensure maximum effectiveness.

2.3. Systems

Systems are the infrastructure necessary to carry out business processes. These are increasingly technology enabled, particularly where increased productivity and repeatability are required but paper-based systems are still used in some organisations. Some electronic systems such as Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) attempt to support processes in several functional areas of an organisation and some such as Customer Relationship Management (CRM) are more focussed.

3. Dynamics

Dynamics or culture describes how it feels when people and groups work together and relate to each other inside and outside the organisation. It is a result of several factors inside the organisation including vision, structure, systems, values and beliefs and outside the organisation and needs to be aligned with organisational direction and design. This is the most important and complex aspect of design as it has a significant impact on performance, motivation, creativity and includes unconscious human motivations and feedback loops.

3.1. Values

Organisational purpose and values contain the key aspirations that drive employee engagement and performance in organisations. Values describe how the people in an organisation aspire to treat each other and the world around them. Values need to be aligned with organisational direction and modelled by leadership if they are to become behavioural norms in an organisation.

3.2. Beliefs

Beliefs are conscious and unconscious ideas that motivate behaviour. Inspiring individuals to adopt an organisation’s values in place of some of their own beliefs is one of the most complex challenges of leadership and requires leaders to live the values authentically and put mechanisms in place to reinforce adoption.

3.3. Trust

While groups can choose from numerous values to influence and express their unique social and psychological environment one value has been shown to be key to establishing the psychological safety foundations required for effective performance in today’s complex and rapidly evolving world: TRUST.

What do I need to do?

Simply click on this link and for ten minutes of your time we will tell you which factors are likely to be holding you back.

There are 20 questions and for each question, we’d also like to know how you rate your organisation and how important the issue is to you.

All responses are confidential, and your data will be kept securely and not shared with any other parties.

26th January 2018
Sam Dods

Do intelligent people make better decisions?

At work and home, we’re making decisions all the time; sometimes making simple decisions by ourselves and sometimes working with groups to make complex decisions with significant implications.

While a number of approaches have been developed to improve decision making many fallacies still exist including:

  1. Intelligent people make better decisions
  2. Groups make better decisions

The evidence suggests that highly intelligent people are more prone to “bias blind spots“, and while groups can make better decisions under the right conditions, “groupthink” often results in poor decision making.

The ideal approach for more complex decisions therefore involves groups with members that feel comfortable expressing their thoughts, challenging the thoughts of others and managing the emotional dynamics at play that can lead to groupthink; groups in which members trust each other.

The challenge is in getting teams to this point. I’ve been working with Gareth Marlow of eqsystems.io, and Cambridge Wireless to put together a short programme to help CEOs and leadership teams of growing companies work through the issues – both the rational, and the irrational – and build alignment and better decision making within their organisations. We’ve called it “Driving Huskies or Herding Cats?” and it will run over two afternoons in February and March 2018, at The Bradfield Centre in Cambridge.


To find out more or register interest in the programme, click here.

17th January 2018
Sam Dods

Driving huskies, or herding cats?

Instagram’s thirteen employees created 27 million users and a $1Bn valuation at acquisition within 15 months.

Paypal’s thirty employees created 13 million customers and a $1.5Bn valuation at acquisition, beating Billpoint, a joint venture between eBay and Wells Fargo.

Both companies prevailed against larger, better-resourced competition – but they succeeded through focus – laser-sharp alignment of their teams. Having great technology – and great people – is insufficient. Team alignment is the difference which makes the difference.

Does your team seem to be working flat out, but still not getting very far? Do discussions about what to do go around in circles, without ever being resolved? Or worse – are there no discussions at all?

If so then this short, two-step programme will help. It’s aimed at helping CEOs and senior managers of tech startups and scaleups to develop the skills to bring clarity and focus to their organisations – driving huskies, not herding cats.

If you would like to know more or to register for the programme, please follow this link.

13th September 2017
Sam Dods

Scaling-up: a working conference on motivations, challenges & solutions


“Competitive advantage doesn’t go to the nations that focus on creating companies, it goes to nations that focus on scaling companies.”
Sherry Coutu, The Scale-up Report, Nov 2014


In her 2014 report, Sherry Coutu describes the range of challenges that are encountered by companies attempting to scale their businesses. But every company experiences a unique path to growth which is influenced by factors such as the motivations and interests of founders, the industry sector of the business and the ability of leaders to develop the skills, finance and facilities necessary to grow.


This free half-day event explores how business leaders can overcome the inevitable challenges on the path to growth. The event is suitable for leaders who are considering or in the process of scaling their companies. It offers the chance to work with a select number of other business leaders in exploring the challenges to growth in several different learning environments.


Delegates will hear from a panel of seasoned business veterans including Charles Cotton, Gareth Marlow, Tony Milbourn and Andrew Orrock. This will be followed by a series of workshops that will allow delegates to roll up their sleeves and debate common challenges and their solutions. Towards the end of the afternoon there will be an open plenary session for delegates to explore together how to navigate their own paths to growth.


If you would like to know more or to register for the event please follow this link.

15th June 2017
Sam Dods

Talking organisational development, culture and Koru on Cambridge TV


What is organisational development, how does culture and a sense of purpose impact performance, what is organisational design and what does Koru mean?


These and a number of other issues around improving organisational effectiveness are discussed in Sam Dods’ interview with Alina Trabattoni.


Have you had any experienced with OD or is it an area that you’d like to know more about? If so then please share, send me a LinkedIn connection request or let me know if you’d like to discuss.