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Improving organisational effectiveness: You can’t fight nature | Kaya Consulting

Improving organisational effectiveness: You can’t fight nature.

When organisational effectiveness is compromised due to internal conflict or dysfunctional relationships – between individuals or teams – it’s worth looking beyond the nuts and bolts of organisational structures and hierarchies within your business.

As an organisational effectiveness consultant, I often find the key to getting morale and productivity back on track lies, not in wholesale structural changes, but in understanding and aligning the nature of people and the nature of their roles – what we call ‘keeping people in flow’.

In-progress case study
I’m currently working with a client in China where a breakdown in the relationships between the teams in a fabrication environment is impacting on organisational effectiveness and productivity.

For the purposes of this case study, the product isn’t important – suffice it to say, the manufacturing process involves several stages and disciplines, building products comprised of numerous modules. What is important to know is that there are three core teams within the environment: the Fabrication team; the Quality Assurance (QA) team; and what is effectively the ‘Client’ team in this scenario, responsible for overseeing the final production stage.

The problem affecting organisational effectiveness
Over time, tensions have arisen between the Client team and the Fabrication and QA teams.

The Client team comprises technical experts with construction backgrounds who are unhappy with the work of the Fabrication and QA teams. In turn, the Client team’s complaints and interference are annoying the Fabrication and QA teams, resulting in a breakdown in relationships and productivity.

The challenge and addressing the cause
The challenge then, is to make the relationships between the two sides work – to get all of the teams working in harmony to achieve their common goal.

To do that, I initiated a series of conversations with the teams. It became clear that, even though the Client team’s role within the process is one of data collection and production scheduling, their dissatisfaction stems from the fact that they are all from technical, fabrication backgrounds.

Their technical knowledge led them to question the work of the other teams.

The start of the solution: What is work?
I’ve been working with the Client team to answer the question ‘What is work?’ It may seem obvious – everyone has a job specification or description – but this goes deeper. It’s about understanding the nature of the work – what’s known as the ‘work of the role’.

Work can be defined in a number of ways. However, beyond the physical activity, it’s essentially about using your knowledge, experience and judgement to make decisions in pursuit of an objective.

Do-ers need to do, number crunchers need to crunch
In this case, the Client team’s knowledge and experience lie in manufacturing. They are ‘do-ers’ by nature. In contrast, the roles they find themselves in are data and information-based positions – for the organisation to work productively, they have to be information gatherers and checkers.

Our conversations have therefore been focused on acknowledging this disparity and the boundaries of their team’s remit.

Keeping in flow: Good for people and productivity
Through frank and open discussions, we’re now working through solutions to the core issue – the disparity between the nature of the people (their experience and natural inclination to make and build) and the data-oriented nature of their roles within the production environment.

For the company, the lesson is clear. When recruiting, focus on aligning the nature of candidates with the nature of the work. Look beyond technical skills and consider the responsibilities and the decision-making remit of a role when selecting employees.

For the people currently working within the Client team, it means considering the nature of the work they enjoy, which may ultimately involve moving to more fulfilling roles that suit their nature. Or as we organisational psychologists say, ‘keeping in flow’.

Jan Sipsma is an organisational psychologist and founding partner of Kaya. With over 20 years of international experience as an organisational effectiveness consultant, he specialises in strategic planning, organisational architecture and design, change management, capability and performance enhancement and the identification and development of leadership. He has a Masters of Commerce (Industrial Psychology) cum laude and is a registered member of the Australian Psychological Society.