How people at work interact within organisations is an endlessly fascinating puzzle for me. And this month’s been all about trying to solve that puzzle just a little bit more every day.

Shells on beach

Family walk at Greatstone Beach, Kent. January 2022.

There are plenty of ways to approach how to make more effective organisations, but I’m increasing convinced that the most useful framing considers both the health of the organisation as a convening system alongside the drivers of individuals’ effectiveness in their work work.

That’s quite a mouthful, but on the ground it boils down to creating the right context for people to do their best work…while making sure that those individual contributions add up to what the organisation exists to do.

As the new TPXimpact organisation emerges, we’ve been working with some external advisors to help us navigate some of the more tricky aspects of this. In particular we’ve been exploring the journey of leaders in the transition we’re making from many companies to one organisation.

We’ve started using a model from Elliot Jaques’ Requisite Organization to help understand where we are in our journey and help us make some of the transitions we have underway. It’s a really interesting way of looking at the nature of leadership roles in an organisation and some of the typical pitfalls that befall organisations making major changes.

There’s a good explanation of the thinking here. The part we’ve been using considers the levels of work that Jaques proposes need to happen in an organisation for it to be effective. Some elements of Jaques’ work might seem counter to much contemporary thinking about self-organisation and how it relates to organisational structure, but I have also found much of use in the theory and how it isolates the intersecting functions of leadership in modern organisations.

The other interesting reflection I have over the past four weeks has been about the concept of “cycle time“. How quickly can an organisation, or parts of an organisation, go through cycles of learning and doing? For example we’ve been testing the first iteration of our new organisational governance at TPXimpact this month. It’s been interesting to learn new habits, break some old ones and reflect on what needs to change next for a functioning form of governance to emerge.

This month we’ve been trying to reduce our cycle time to get some key areas of work moving faster. This has typically meant reducing the number of people being directly involved in specific projects. While delivering benefits in speed, there are costs too thanks to less people being directly involved in some work, leading to more effort being needed to co-ordinate and join up pieces of work. Quality of the work delivered is also a consideration in the right size and composition of teams solving problems too.

I’ve been getting out and about more with work this month too. The value of time spent working face to face with colleagues and new teams has been significant. Last week I also caught up with former colleague Tim Deeson. It was great to reflect on his work since leaving the business and what he’s learnt about himself and his experiences during that time.

Outside of work this month I’ve been managing to stick to my fitness drive, attending CrossFit sessions twice a week and trying to do exercise most days. I’ve upped my running mileage and done two half marathon distance runs this month, along with several 10K runs. I also managed to get in a 100km bike ride too so my Strava stats for the month are looking good.

This has given me the confidence to sign up for a big challenge in October – a 50 mile ultra across the Lake District. The dual challenge of the distance and navigating through some of the highest peaks is exciting and daunting at the same time. The longest run I’ve done to date is a marathon so it’s definitely a new adventure for me.

Luckily my renewed interest in running has coincided with our month-long fitness challenge at work, so I should be able to contribute a healthy number of steps to our team’s step count for the month. In 2022 we’ve got nearly 100 people signed up for the challenge after we first ran it last year. It’s great to have another motivator to get outdoors in one of the harder training months – as well as to see which of my colleagues are the most competitive this time around!