It’s an early morning writing session for October’s monthnotes today. The combination of the end of UK summer time and returning from a sunny week away in Ibiza yesterday has meant an unusually early start for a Sunday morning for me.
With that week off, it’s been a shorter working month for me but a lot seems to have happened in that time. The benefit of having a few days away where I didn’t think too much about work has been to remind me about some truths in organisational change that I sometimes lose sight of when I get too close.
We’re on a journey to bring eight businesses together under a single new brand – TPXimpact – to create a progressive business that delivers impactful, sustainable, digital transformation. In reality this is a multi-year journey that has no defined end point, particularly as the business will continue to grow and change in future, through acquisition and expansion.
But this kind of ambitious change requires some big efforts along the way to overcome the natural inertia that exists in any kind of organisation. Over the summer we launched the change internally, with an initial external launch in late September.
Now we’re into a phase where we are moving to our first iteration of an integrated structure for the organisation. The design for this structure has been an interesting challenge, bringing together a single operating model and understanding what leadership roles need to exist initially to help make that operating model a reality. The level of ambition in this initial structure needs to be balanced with the need to continue to deliver business as usual.
As someone that believes in the potential of people throughout organisations, the concepts of structure and leadership mean different things to me than they do to others. Aligning on a common understanding of what these terms mean and signify is an important part of becoming a single organisation, leaving behind some of the traditional vestiges of positional status, hard power and directive influence that lie behind these words.
An interesting manifestation of this has been in how to present the structure of the organisational visually. Trying to avoid a traditional looking hierarchical structure chart – to signify progressive change and avoid building in notions of hierarchy from the start – needed to be balanced against the need to be able to effectively communicate the shape of the new organisation in the language and visual forms that people are most familiar with at this stage in the journey.
It’s also been interesting to think about how any kind of structure chart has limited temporal validity. It’s only really applicable at that moment in time and will be in a continuous state of iteration. This seems obvious when thinking about an organisation under the organism metaphor, but because of decades of machine metaphor thinking about organisations, it shouldn’t be a surprise that a visual representation of an organisation is often considered as a detailed definition of how it functions.
Yet a structure chart is not the same as an architect’s plans for a new building or a technical drawing for a car engine. It is not definitive for the future and is not a descriptor of how an organisation works – merely a visual construct to provide one perspective on how individuals and teams in an organisation might interact.
So as we head into November, I am also reminding myself that every change, whether at home or work, involves a messy middle. It’s that time when change feels hard, things go wrong, unexpected obstacles trip you up and you have to be willing to pivot. But it’s also the time to reinforce the longer term vision, communicate, listen, celebrate the small wins and build a ladder of change for people throughout an organisation to climb at their own pace as part of their own personal journey of change.
In practice this means finalising appointments to the new TPXimpact leadership structure for the integrated organisation as soon as we can, working to explore what leadership really means in the new organisation (with servant leadership being a strong theme) and starting to collaborate to work out how devolved decision-making, radical transparency and accountability work in practice for us. It’ll be this collaboration that really define how we become the organisation we want to be, rather than any organogram or structure chart.
So tomorrow I’m back to work with a renewed focus on playing my part in creating an integrated organisation that is genuinely different to other businesses in our markets, truly built around the potential of people working together in multi-disciplinary teams to solve complex problems for our clients through transformation.