Organizational life is not a natural act. We should
not be surprised when goals get lost in implementation,
when personal agendas undermine corporate intention,
or when documented procedures have no relationship
to how people actually get work done.
Humans are hard wired for the tribe; everything
more complex is a stretch. The real
surprise in organizations is not that problems occur, but rather that
we get anything done at all!
After over 300 client engagements, I
have come to understand some of the basic principles
of organizational success. At least I think
I have; this site is designed so you can make
your own judgment.
I have included an overview of my
well as particular articles that
capture some of my opinions on organizational
issues. You can also download slide
presentations from recent talks. There is also a special section for
materials relevant to current client work.
Like most consultants, I belong to an informal network
of colleagues who have provoked and tested
my thinking and my practice. They are some
of the resources you can reach through this
Making a Difference
A practice is more than a string of projects. Like anyone in the Second Half
of life, there are some areas where I hope to make difference rather than just
- Nonprofit governance is a special concern in my work.
Bright, well-meaning people who come together hoping to do good in the world
often find that it seems much
more difficult and elusive than they imagined. It turns out there are useful
models for how to establish and run nonprofit ventures, but the simple extension
of best practices from the for-profit world is sometimes more disruptive
than helpful. Some of my most meaningful work is sitting with the boards
of nonprofits and helping them clearly understand their challenge and crafting
a path toward more effective and enjoyable governance.
- Living with Complexity is the new challenge for organizations.
Markets and economies have always been understood best as complex adaptive
systems, but the same perspective is the most useful for looking inside the
company as well. Informal communication networks and corporate cultures mean
that executives don't "run" the company, they "ride" it. The new rules for
leading or managing are different than the traditional "command and control"
approach. They require attending to the evolution of the firm rather than
designing and directing it.
- Problem solving is marred in this culture by a simplistic
approach that is so deeply embedded it is difficult to even raise our consciousness
our commitment to it. It is clear that the problems we face in business today
are more conflicted, more complex, and more varied than even 50 years ago.
Yet we continue to apply a linear, "one-size-fits-all" approach. My research
suggests there are 6 fundamentally different problem types, and each one
and a distinctly
This six fold typology is the model I use in my own practice, and whenever
possible, I enjoy helping organizations learn and apply the model for their
own internal work as well.
- Decision making is one of the most common activities in
organizations, but (like problem solving) our focus is so intensely on the
that we seldom even see our own process. The research and the writing in
the field is inordinately diverse and inevitably unsatisfying. We hope for
a comprehensive model of effective decision making, and we find instead a
myriad of models, principles, guides, and anecdotes. What we lack is a comprehensive
listing of the challenges of decision-making and of the forums within which
we make decisions. Only for a particular challenge explored within
we identify best practices. Part of my practice is helping organizations
diagnose their decision challenges and create templates for more effective