Organisational development (part 2)

Last month’s article focused on the who, why and how of developing your organisation, and included 11 useful steps. This month builds on those ideas by giving you a detailed process for steps three, four and five that you can follow with your leadership team. Of course, I’d be happy to help if required.

Organisational development (part 2)

The exercises detailed below are tried, tested, and proven to work. However, the decision about exactly what process to follow depends on a number of factors, including the size of your team, team dynamics, and each individual’s level of experience in doing this type of work. There is no ‘one size fits all’ solution.

A few points to note:

  • You can’t both facilitate and participate in these exercises
  • The facilitator is responsible for the process, supporting people through it, time-keeping, setting and role modelling the tone for people’s behaviour
  • The team is responsible for owning the content and for their own behaviour
  • As the leader, you will also have invisible influence over the outcome by virtue of your role, so decide how you want to manage this
  • The larger the team, the more ‘managing’ it requires in terms of process
  • Relationship issues may also need managing
  • Results will vary depending on the level of experience and confidence of your people to do this type of work, and their ability to detach themselves (especially if the discussion covers organisational restructuring that affects their job)
  • Bringing in an external facilitator will help, so that you and your team are free to engross yourselves in the content. There is a lot to pay close attention to and an experienced facilitator will be able to ‘hold’ the process, climate/mood, timings and ensure you achieve your objectives

If you would like further help or information, please let me know.

Step 3: Setting your Vision Statement

As explained last month, your vision statement should be an aspirational view of the future expressed in a short and memorable way.

I sometimes use a method called ‘graphic facilitation’ that enables people to be more actively engaged and therefore often inspires more creative thought. I find this process helps people think about the ‘future state’ with a fresh pair of eyes, without restricting themselves to the current organisational context and constraints. By allowing even half-formed ideas and thoughts to flow, you are more likely to build something original, special and meaningful. Done well, this process generates laughter, fun and great results.

  • Ask your people to choose a prestigious magazine such as the Harvard Business Review, Fortune magazine, or one that’s relevant to your industry
  • Choose the timeframe you want to cover (typically two or three years ahead)
  • Imagine this magazine is writing an article at that time about what your organisation has accomplished
  • Copy this diagram onto a big piece of paper and place it on the floor

Source: Inspired by The Grove Consultants International

  • Work together to capture ideas for the key headlines, quotes and images that will be included (don’t attempt to write the article)
  • Once finished, get the team to describe what they’ve produced (you can tell whether it’s worked by how passionate and excited they are about it)
  • The next step may vary, depending on factors such as the size of the team. Typically, I’ll ask everyone to take 5 minutes to list key words and phrases that capture the essence of the vision for them (the aim is to collate all the individual ideas and avoid ‘group think’ i.e. when people don’t listen to each idea and compromise to arrive at consensus but it actually dilutes the whole message)
  • Each individual then presents to the whole group, to discuss what they’ve written and why OR if it’s a group of maybe eight or more, divide into two groups (see next bullet point)
  • The big group is then divided into two. Both small groups summarise the key words and phrases they like, and if they are ready, write a draft vision statement
  • Each small group presents their draft to the other group, and the whole group works together to devise the final vision statement. As a working session, it can sometimes feel messy, as people are trying to develop and incorporate ideas, and may sometimes get stuck. Don’t worry; this is completely OK. Be patient, keep going, and you’ll end up with a vision statement that everyone feels proud of and excited by.
  • When agreed, write it neatly on the flip chart and get everyone to sign their name under it as a ceremonial way of showing their commitment. Make sure it focuses on both the ‘what’ and ‘how’ to motivate your stakeholders
  • The vision statement should be aspirational, motivating, and generate a positive emotional reaction. As explained above, it should also be memorable. So once they’ve spent all this time preparing the vision statement, I turn over the flip chart paper and ask them what it is! This generates a laugh and is a good test of memory. If the participants who devised it can’t remember it, neither will their people.

Step 4: Building your Mission Statement

The mission statement outlines the specific value your organisation brings, and the type of work and activities you need to do in order to achieve the vision. It will be longer than the vision statement and there’s no need for everyone to remember it word-for-word (although they should remember the key points and messages). Your mission statement should have a reasonable shelf-life; you don’t want to change it every year.

  • Using the same graphical facilitation technique, take a big piece of paper and draw a circle in the middle. Write your vision statement in the middle of the circle.
  • Draw ‘sun rays’ coming out of the circle to create segments
  • Depending on the size of the group, get individuals to identify the kind of work they do that will drive the vision, and capture their ideas in the segments – one key area of focus/work per segment
  • Keep referring to the vision (this is essential) to guide and focus you
  • Collectively discuss the results and reach agreement
  • Aim for about five to seven bullet points that succinctly summarise the type of work this organisation does to deliver its best value at a strategic level
  • Neatly write it out and get everyone to sign it

People in functional teams find this process useful, as it helps them and their staff be clear on their unique contribution to the running of the company. Again, remember to incorporate the ‘how’ as this will enable stakeholders to connect emotionally as well as rationally and intellectually.

Having a mission statement is also useful to bring clarity to stakeholders about the value your organisation brings them, and aids conversations and decisions throughout the year about what to do and what not to do. It enables all parties to align on priorities and avoid overloading people.

Step 5: Defining your Organisational Capabilities and Conducting a Gap Analysis

Once you’ve got your vision and mission statements, you need to determine your strategy over the next two or three years. This tells you where to focus your time, energy and resources.

One way is to decide what capabilities you need as an organisation, as this will enable you to realise your vision and mission. You need to know these capabilities and their relative importance – some keep the business running day-to-day, and some are fundamental to bringing you competitive advantage.

Here is a process you can take teams through to identify their organisational capabilities, define their relative importance, and conduct a gap analysis to prioritise and inform your strategy (please feel free to contact me for a more detailed explanation as this can feel quite a complicated process):

1. Define capabilities
Plenary session where team members define the organisational capabilities required to deliver the vision and mission. Each capability is captured on a Post-it note and stuck on a flipchart easel.

2. Gap analysis
Each Post-it note is then plotted onto a 9-box matrix (usually two or three pieces of flip chart paper taped together so it is large enough to accommodate the Post-it notes).

There are two judgements to make for each capability:

(i) Are you currently better than, equal to or worse than your competition?

(ii) What’s the value of this capability in driving your vision (e.g. essential support, strategic support or core competitive advantage)?

Once all the Post-it notes are plotted on the grid it provides a powerful visual for where the strengths and gaps are. The red dotted lines indicate where you should aim to sit within the grid, i.e. for capabilities you classify as core competitive advantage you need to be better than your competition to gain advantage.  Therefore if you are on a par or below this is likely to be an area you prioritise for action (see next bullet point).

3. Prioritise
It is likely that there will be many areas the team want to work on and so it’s important to prioritise – I find sticky ‘voting’ dots useful for this. Give each team member a number of dots (choose how many) and let them vote how they wish e.g. all on one Post-it note or spread around.

4. Cluster
Once the priorities are clear, cluster into key topics (such as people, culture, customer, technology, process, finance etc.). This is then used to inform the setting of the strategy, and nicely fits into most company’s internal processes e.g. Balanced Scorecard format.

Back to the process

Once these steps are completed, it takes you to Step 6 of setting your strategy, and through the remaining steps in the model. Please see Organisational Development (part 1).


Values are an essential component in developing your organisation and defining the culture you wish to be. Please see the article I wrote on the subject last year: ‘Creating a values-driven organisation‘ and please do contact me if you’d like ideas on how you can define your organisational culture.

Please share this article with anyone you know who might find it interesting, and let me know if you’d like help in developing your organisation.

Next month, I introduce the field of positive psychology and how it creates a fulfilling and productive environment at work and home.