Modern organisation design - interview with Nick Richmond of Tricordant

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Nick Richmond is a Director and Organisation Design practice lead at Tricordant, an organisation design and development consultancy with a mission to Release your Greatness. A chemical engineer by background, Nick has multi-sector experience and likes to use innovative methods to make purposeful differences for clients. His passion is to design meaningful work to form healthy, high performing organisations. Nick is the Chair of the Organisation Design Institute, its trading arm the European Organisation Design Forum (EODF) and is the EODF UK lead. 



Q1. You’ve been involved in organisation design for many years. What are the recent trends in org design?

When I think about this, though I’ve been involved in organisation design for a few years, actually many of the underlying principles, ideas and tensions have been around much longer. For me trends in organisation design are often repeating patterns showing up at different points in time depending on the context of the internal and external environments. Mintzberg described these as a set of forces and forms in 1979 which all organisations have to balance to remain efficient and effective. 

Though different labels the recent trends in organisation design reflect a shift toward. Adhocracy - Innovation a.k.a. Agility. However this is not in isolation and often needs to be balanced with other key forces and forms within the organisation e.g. Efficiency - Machine in a car manufacturer to maximise value and return on investment or maybe Proficiency - Professional within an engineering firm. Another recent trend, which is a function of Efficiency - Machine, is the rise of automation & AI. I know of a number of financial service organisations who have either bought in or developed in house AI to support their call centre operators and even to constantly assess the current organisations design to ensure optimisation. This will enable organisations to automate simple work, and do more complicated work with less people. A third trend is for remote working, with 42.5% of the global workforce being mobile by 2022. This will mean organisations need will need to be reshaped to ensure ongoing alignment with the wider organisation and enable productive working.

Q2. As you know, Naomi Stanford has written many books on organisation design. In what ways has her work influenced you and your colleagues at Tricordant?

Tricordant has been influenced by a number of authors, practitioners and academics as we seek to continuously improve our approach to, and understanding of organisation design. Naomi and I regularly connect as part of the European Organisation Design Forum and through my own company Tricordant. Her work, blogs and our conversations have certainly influenced our thinking and approach for example we use a variation of her method in developing design criteria. I also like to use her metaphor of designing a car to describe organisation design and how it relates to organisation development. 

Q3. A few years ago “The Ambidextrous Organization” was a popular way to describe multi-speed or bi-modal organisations. Where is this kind of approach going now? 

This answer really follows on from the answer in Question 1 as ultimately Ambidextrous Organisation is about balancing competing forces within an organisation. The archetype balance many executives have been trying to achieve is to exploit the present (Efficiency - Machine) while also explore the future (Adhocracy - Innovation). Though as stated above this is not the only tension executives are trying to manage. Overall I see Ambidextrous Organization as still relevant in organisation design work but it seems to have been subsumed into other methodologies which have more currency today e.g. the Operating Model Canvas popularised by Andrew Campbell, or one of the many new expressions of organisation Holacracy, Teal Organisation, and Enterprise Agility.

Q4. You help to run the European Organisation Design Forum (EODF). Could you share details of some upcoming EODF events and workshops?

I am the Chair of the European Organisation Design Forum and its parent charity the Organisation Design Institute. We are a community of brilliant people who are passionate about designing thriving organizations, check us out at https://eodf.eu/. On our website you will note we run free to attend country community events across Europe, masterclasses in organisation design and our flagship event the annual conference. 

This year’s conference is just outside London, where thought leaders will share how they are “getting things done,” creating real impact in practice when designing and leading technology enabled organizations. Because this years focus is about “hands-on” success experience, people will share a lot of real-life case studies. In two days, attendees will enhance their tool-box with powerful insights, approaches and tools that have taken industry leaders years to accumulate. Come and join me to take advantage of your peers’ and leaders’ successes and failures! Register at http://eodf.eu/2019-annual-conference/register/ 

Follow Nick Richmond online: @NickGMRichmond and tricordant.com