Developing Healthy Organisations

As leaders we are tasked with creating healthy organisations. But healthy for whom? The market insistently demands short term feel good ‘health signals’, mostly judged by financial numbers and efficiency. Paying exclusive attention to these voices can drown out the factors which really count. These are the long-term health indicators for all stakeholders involved, including employees and the environment. They ensure that the organisation can both capitalise on innovative opportunities, as well as handle unexpected crises.

Good leadership involves both the development of organizational capacity through others as well as the thought leadership. They engage the future not just the current job. This requires leaders to set aside time to think, not just to do. This is one reason why executive coaching has become a necessary practice for more and more leaders. Even more so in a complex and uncertain world.

It is with this in mind that I share an extract written by Adam Gale.(July 2020) and quoting Julian Birkinshaw, Robert Kaplan and Margaret Heffernan who explore smart strategies for resilience in an uncertain world.*


“Decentralisation, or ‘emergence’ is one of the two defining structural features of highly adaptable organisations. The other, which is somewhat more counterintuitive, is the wholesale rejection of the doctrine of efficiency.”

‘A classic example is the NHS, which is run for efficiency. When the pandemic hit, there weren’t enough intensive care beds. In Germany, where they’ve always had significant slack in their healthcare system, people didn’t have to be severely ill before being admitted to hospital, which meant they were admitted earlier, were less likely to need an ICU bed and were more likely to recover.’

“It is a mistake to view built-in slack merely in terms of additional cost. Slack can also be viewed as built-in capacity to think, to experiment and to explore new ideas. In essence, you need to give your people the time, space and bandwidth to innovate, which is inconsistent with a ruthless focus on getting the most out of people in the shortest time.”·

‘If you’re genuinely going to be responsive to radical uncertainty, you can’t be dominated by efficiency. You can’t predict everything, so when something happens, you need some slack in the system.’

One thing I have learnt during this pandemic, and am seeing in others also, is that there is benefit in pausing and evaluating what really counts.

Rob Reimers Inspiring Growth

*Management Today (July 2020)

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