Switching on organisational intelligence

In times of serious financial constraint, it is possible to increase both effectiveness and efficiency with higher staff morale. Increased morale creates an environment that switches on latent ‘organisational intelligence’.

An intelligent approach to achieving ‘more and better with less’ is not so much about getting people to work harder or longer. It’s about working smarter. Doing the important things better and not doing some things at all. Strangely enough, this means a lot less fire fighting and more innovation; fewer meetings; delegating and trusting people more; concentrating on doing, rather than reporting; focusing on performance at the expense of compliance; and even taking considered risks rather than routinely ‘covering your back’.

Organisational intelligence can only be switched on by activating the latent potential at all levels in the organisation. In every organisation there are a series of informal networks that indicate how people behave. For example, whether they are innovative, good communicators, collaborate well, share knowledge, or are customer focused. Although the patterns of these work networks will vary, they all have ‘nodes’ of high activity, where key individuals influence colleagues, drive internal communications, act as sources of knowledge, encourage innovation and so on. By involving these key individuals in different types of activities across the organisation, it is possible to activate latent organisational intelligent in a highly effective way. Switching on organisational intelligence is then highly focused, practical and very effective.  

Identifying and actively involving the key 4% to 8% of ‘node’ individuals is only part of the solution. They are the essential infrastructure for creating a high performance/high innovation/high morale work environment. This infrastructure, however, only becomes really effective when it is applied to specific ‘wicked’ business problems – those problems that are intractable, have defied traditional management solutions and typically can be minimised, rather than completely resolved. The list of wicked problems that afflict organisations is surprisingly long and includes:

• All major change initiatives
• Creating effective performance management systems
• New product or service development
• Inter-organisational collaboration
• Endemic social problems, such as knife crime, truancy, anti-social behaviour and teenage pregnancy etc.

Switching on organisational intelligence is the most effective approach to minimising wicked problems. Unlike traditional consultancy methods that focus on ‘how’ to do things better, organisational intelligence focuses on ‘who’ will do things better. The resulting ‘how’ is then much more relevant, more resilient to future changes, and easier to achieve. External ideas and specialist contributions are evaluated by groups of relevant key individuals.  They apply the acid tests that result in ideas (from any and all sources) being accepted, rejected or modified. Implementation is subsequently smooth and morale high. 

A new approach to leadership

Effective change leadership is achieved through identifying, involving and trusting key natural leaders, who often occupy nodes in the organisation’s informal networks.  Experts who implement change by themselves are limited to logical ‘under the bonnet’ technical issues.  Command and control leadership is reserved for (rare) crises.