Resources centre

Thank you for visiting the Resources Centre.

This website contains much free-of-charge educational content. You can print off any page or item that interests you. You have permission to use such copy and share it as a learning resource.

In addition, there are 32 practical implementation resources for use in making improvements in organisations. These resources may be purchased online and downloaded at a modest cost. They are designed for use by senior executives and leaders, organisation trainers, educators, developers, coaches, mentors, and internal and external consultants.

Cost

There are two pricing structures: a corporate rate (C) used by those who are employed in an organisation with a corporate budget, and a personal rate (P) for those who are self-employed and paying out of their own pocket. Buyers will be asked for this information when entering the shop. According to which of these categories you come under, you will find the prices and purchasing options shown further down this page.

Here is some further information about the resources that you may find helpful before entering the shop.

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Using the Resources (click to open)
All the resources are broadly similar in style. They all contain practical advice coupled with questions to prompt reflection, and help assist thinking, analysis and action planning. They do not prescribe solutions or give answers to client problems; rather they help readers think through matters in their own unique context and plot their own learning and action. The resources bridge the learning-action divide, filling that rare gap of being underpinned by research while remaining highly practical and implementable in real organisation contexts. They are not excessively theoretical or technically difficult, but they do challenge the imagination and the norms of conventional thinking in the typical organisation. What all the resources have in common is a foundation in systemic thinking and complexity science. The resources are short, just a few pages each. What they lack in length, they make up for in depth. They do not require a lot of time to read, but the issues they pose do call for the time and freedom to think, and a willingness to embrace discussion with colleagues.
Copyright (click to open)
Please note that all material and pages on the website is the copyright of The Institute for Systemic Leadership The website’s full Terms and Conditions can be obtained from the link at the footer of each page.

Usage Rights

Resources bought and downloaded from the website may be reproduced by the purchaser for the use, study and education of the purchaser and departmental work unit colleagues, provided that its authorship and source is attributed to the Institute. The material cannot be distributed en masse across large divisionalised organisations or, say, to all a corporation’s managers. To indicate the permission granted, the named purchaser is shown on the bottom of each resource pdf.

Where it is a purchaser’s purpose to use the resources commercially directly with fee-paying clients, they must purchase from the website’s shop a £200 annually extended use licence.

The Institute’s resources may not be bought and re-sold for commercial gain.

Questions or Comments about the Resources Centre shop?

HOW TO CHOOSE WHICH ITEMS TO PURCHASE WHEN YOU ENTER THE SHOP

You will be able to choose items in these ways:

1. You can choose the full set of 32 resources at a special price 

2. Predetermined Themed sets 
You can select one or more of six themed sets that consist of clearly identified pre-designated resources chosen for you out of the total bank of 32:

  • Core set (4 pre-designated resources)
  • Learning and development set (5 pre-designated resources)
  • Organisation development and design set (8 pre-designated resources)
  • Change and improvement set (6 pre-designated resources)
  • Performance management set (6 pre-designated resources)
  • HR set (3 pre-designated resources)

3. Individual Choices 
Or you can choose for yourself the individual resources from the bank of 32 that interest you.
You can buy all your preferred resources this way, or you can top up themed sets with these additional personal choices.
You can buy individual resources singly or in discounted bundles. The discount will be automatically applied to bundles when the threshold number of items in your cart is passed.

 PRICING SCHEDULE

 THEMED SET PURCHASES 

NAME OF THEMED SET BUYING ON CORPORATE BUDGET Equivalent if items bought at individual full price of £15 BUYING ON PERSONAL BUDGET Equivalent if items bought at individual full price of £7.50
Core set (4 items) £40 £60 £20 £30
Learning & Development set (5 items) £50 £75 £25 £37.50
Organisation Development and Design set (8 items) £80 £120 £40 £60
Change and Improvement set (6 items) £60 £90 £30 £45
Performance Management set (6 items) £60 £90 £30 £45
HR set (3 items) £30 £45 £15 £22.50
All six sets (same as all 32 individual resources) £288 £480 £144  £240

INDIVIDUAL PURCHASES

DISCOUNTS AND PRICES IF USING CORPORATE BUDGET DISCOUNTS AND PRICES IF USING PERSONAL BUDGET
1 – 4 items @ full price = £15.00 each 1 – 4 items @ full price = £7.50 each
5 – 9 @10% discount = £13.50 each  5 – 9 @10% discount = £6.75 each
10 – 14 @15% discount = £12.75 each 10 – 14 @15% discount = £6.37 each
15 – 19 @20% discount = £12.00 each 15 – 19 @20% discount = £6.00 each
20 – 24 @25% discount = £11.25 each 20 – 24 @25% discount = £5.62 each
25 – 31 @30% discount = £10.50 each 25 – 31 @30% discount = £5.25 each

* A free bonus document (‘Systemic leadership top tips’) is given with any of the themed sets or five or more individual resources.

Prices as at 01 January 2018

 PRICING SCHEDULE

THEMED SET PURCHASES

NAME OF THEMED SET BUYING ON CORPORATE BUDGET Equivalent if items bought at individual full price of £15 BUYING ON PERSONAL BUDGET Equivalent if items bought at individual full price of £7.50
Core set (4 items) £40 £60 £20 £30
Learning & Development set (5 items) £50 £75 £25 £37.50
Organisation Development and Design set (8 items) £80 £120 £40 £60
Change and Improvement set (6 items) £60 £90 £30 £45
Performance Management set (6 items) £60 £90 £30 £45
HR set (3 items) £30 £45 £15 £22.50
All six sets (same as all 32 individual resources) £288 £480 £144  £240

INDIVIDUAL PURCHASES

DISCOUNTS AND PRICES IF USING CORPORATE BUDGET DISCOUNTS AND PRICES IF USING PERSONAL BUDGET
1 – 4 items @ full price = £15.00 each 1 – 4 items @ full price = £7.50 each
5 – 9 @10% discount = £13.50 each  5 – 9 @10% discount = £6.75 each
10 – 14 @15% discount = £12.75 each 10 – 14 @15% discount = £6.37 each
15 -19 @20% discount = £12.00 each 15 – 19 @20% discount = £6.00 each
20 – 24 @25% discount = £11.25 each 20 – 24 @25% discount = £5.62 each
25 – 31 @30% discount = £10.50 each 25 -31 @30% discount = £5.25 each

* A free bonus document (‘Systemic leadership top tips’) is given with any of the themed sets or five or more individual resources).

Prices as at 01 January 2018

 PRICING SCHEDULE

THEMED SET PURCHASES

NAME OF THEMED SET BUYING ON CORPORATE BUDGET Equivalent if items bought at individual full price of £15 BUYING ON PERSONAL BUDGET Equivalent if items bought at individual full price of £7.50
Core set (4 items) £40 £60 £20 £30
Learning & Development set (5 items) £50 £75 £25 £37.50
Organisation Development and Design set (8 items) £80 £120 £40 £60
Change and Improvement set (6 items) £60 £90 £30 £45
Performance Management set (6 items) £60 £90 £30 £45
HR set (3 items) £30 £45 £15 £22.50
All six sets (same as all 32 individual resources) £288 £480 £144  £240

INDIVIDUAL PURCHASES

DISCOUNTS AND PRICES IF USING CORPORATE BUDGET DISCOUNTS AND PRICES IF USING PERSONAL BUDGET
1 – 4 items @ full price = £15.00 each 1 – 4 items @ full price = £7.50 each
5 – 9 @10% discount = £13.50 each  5 – 9 @10% discount = £6.75 each
10 – 14 @15% discount = £12.75 each 10 – 14 @15% discount = £6.37 each
15 -19 @20% discount = £12.00 each 15 – 19 @20% discount = £6.00 each
20 – 24 @25% discount = £11.25 each 20 – 24 @25% discount = £5.62 each
25 – 31 @30% discount = £10.50 each 25 -31 @30% discount = £5.25 each

* A free bonus document (‘Systemic leadership top tips’) is given with any of the themed sets or five or more individual resources).

Prices as at 01 January 2018

VIEWING ALL ITEMS AVAILABLE IN THE SHOP BEFORE YOU PICK ITEMS FOR YOUR SHOPPING CART

Before going into the shop you may like to see all the available resources and the composition of the six themed sets.  Once in the shop you will be able to buy any of the resources as a set or on their own.

To have a pre-purchase peek, click on the image.

Core set (4 resources)

How to get managers to show more leadership

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How to stop wasting leadership

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How to distribute leadership more widely

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How to see the system you are in

Image credit the Tree Center

Learning and Development set (5 resources)

How to improve managers' learning

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How to clarify parties' role in leadership development

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How to shortcut the transfer of learning

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How to supervise development providers

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How to balance supply and demand perspectives

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Organisation Development and Design set (8 resources)

How to deliver today's needs and also safeguard tomorrow

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How to undertake an organisation needs analysis

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How to see and plug gaps in your organisation

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How to make development more strategic

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How to counter natural disorder, degeneration and decline

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How to make the undiscussable discussable

Image credit Kastara

How to intervene in the shadow system

Image credit Reuters/Jon Bachman

How to avoid and dismantle silos

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Change and Improvement set (6 resources)

How to improve the health of the fishtank

Image source LinkedIn

How to clarify perceptions of leadership action to take

Image credit Acrobranch

How to build a system improvement strategy

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How to lead and manage change

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How to use parallel streams to bring about change

Image source LinkedIn

How to interpret your S-curve lifecycle

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Performance Management set (6 resources)

How to hold managers to account for their leadership

Image source Twitter

How to distinguish successful from effective leaders

Image credit Don’t Bother

How to lead executives who are themselves leaders

Image credit Pixabay

How to appraise performance systemically

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How to conduct governance systemically

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How to sort good bureaucracy from bad

Image credit Study.com

HR set (3 resources)

How to manage leadership talent policy

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How to improve leadership using the full HR spectrum

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How to tackle physical and psychological abuse

Image credit Justcor

In the shop you will be able to buy any of the above items as a set or on their own.

To enter the shop click the button below.





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HOW TO GET MANAGERS TO SHOW MORE LEADERSHIP

This resource is for use by managers, their line supervisor, and developers. It will help managers understand and see their leadership role more clearly and keep alive their hopes and intentions for using their leadership role, abilities and energy. And it will help organisations liberate and optimise their managers’ leadership as an available, active, and applied resource.

Many managers who see themselves having a leadership role when appointed tend to lose sight of their hopes and plans as leaders, especially for making change and improvements. And organisations allow this to happen. Managers quickly lose the fresh perspective of the outsider.

They fall victim to daily pressures. They find themselves having to react to demands and circumstances. They become bureaucratised by the organisation. They are captured by and swept up in the system. They forget why they were put there. They settle into a comfort zone. Surviving becomes their main challenge.

Is any of this true for you? What has been your experience? What have you lost? How can you recapture lost leadership? …

HOW TO STOP WASTING LEADERSHIP

This resource is primarily for top executives and organisation developers. It will help your organisation cut down on the many ways in which it is wasting leadership potential, effort, imagination and energy.

Waste is a big problem for any organisation. And the bigger the organisation, the more wasteful it will be, and the less it may be aware of the waste or in finding it easy to confront the issue.

In the UK the National Health Service (NHS) struggles to cope with the demands placed on it. It claims a lack of resources. It would cope so much better and more economically if it stopped wasting its resources; for example by joining things together better.

This is where leadership comes in, first to solve organisations’ problems like this one. And second to stop leadership talent, energy and expense itself being wasted. …

HOW TO DISTRIBUTE LEADERSHIP MORE WIDELY

This resource will help senior executives and OD professionals liberate their organisation’s managers’ leadership by distributing leadership responsibility, authority, ability and action as widely as practical and politically acceptable.

The extent of the challenge depends on the context. Setting up an organisation from scratch in which leadership is widely shared is one thing, as is a young and youthful hi-tech company. The challenge is tougher when trying to loosen a situation in a large and established organisation, with a wide age range, where the power of leadership has long been tightly concentrated.

This latter context is the more familiar challenge, where the question arises of ‘how to distribute leadership more widely’ than historically has been the case.

Organisations where rank matters adds a layer of hierarchical complication. The same is true of public organisations where statutory legal authority equates with a job title. But in all contexts the goal of distributing leadership responsibility and action widely remains necessary, worthwhile and appropriate to the times we live in. …

HOW TO SEE THE SYSTEM YOU ARE IN

This resource will help anyone working in an organisation see the dynamics of what is going on around them and what to focus their attention on when looking for improvement. It is a great place for anyone to start. Making system changes at this level or more strategically comes later. The resource builds on ‘The Fishtank Metaphor’ in this website’s Theories, Definitions and Principles.

Please read that summary first. After seeing the system, please use the follow-up resource ‘How to improve the health of the fishtank’.

The fishtank metaphor invites us to see and think at least as much about what is going on in the fishtank as what is going on in the fish. The underlying principle behind using this metaphor is this:

People’s work behaviour is strongly affected by what surrounds them and what goes on between them and others – that is, the nature and quality of their multiple relationships and interactions. These relationships are both with other people and with their environmental context.

Their behaviour depends on and emerges from what is happening in those relationships. It is said to be ‘emergent’. Their behaviour is not isolatable to the individual, independent of those multiple relationships. Indeed, to think and talk of ‘individuals’ as though synonymous with ‘people’ (as many do) is an identity category error. …

HOW TO IMPROVE MANAGERS’ LEARNING

This resource is for all managers and developers. Along with related resources it will help bring a systemic perspective to bear on the learning, development, capability and performance of individual managers, taking account of their context. This resource contains advice which we here describe as a ‘manifesto’ for integrating managers’ learning.

Here are 21 points of advice and good practice, primarily as a senior manager responsible for other managers’ learning, but maybe yourself too as a learner, to get the most out of the learning experience, benefiting both individual and organisation. The systemic principle is one of integrating learning with doing in its context.

A 21-POINT MANIFESTO FOR INTEGRATING MANAGERS’ LEARNING

1. Give managers a direct responsibility and a role in cleaning the fishtank for the benefit and wellbeing of all those who report to them.

2. Monitor and follow up their performance in how well they do this.

3. Help your managers distinguish between managing and leading in how they use their time between these two roles. …

HOW TO CLARIFY PARTIES’ ROLES IN LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

This resource is for parties with a role in the development process. Along with related resources it will help bring a systemic perspective to bear on the learning, development, capability and performance of managers, taking account of their context. This resource is the first in this group and is designed to clarify and meld the roles of the various parties.

This resource consists of essential Dos and Don’ts of the various parties:

• Chief executive
• Top team
• Participating managers
• Internal professionals, including Learning & Development, HR, OD, MD
• External suppliers, including consultants, trainers, facilitators, coaches, etc.

The starting point is to be clear whether the activity is intended to benefit individuals in their jobs and careers, or whether it is aiming for something bigger than this and has in mind a direct organisation purpose; i.e. improving the way the organisation works. Many organisations have the latter in mind but proceed as if the former; they subcontract or over-rely on leadership development to deliver organisation transformation. …

HOW TO SHORTCUT THE TRANSFER OF LEARNING

This resource is mainly for developers. Along with related resources it will help bring a systemic perspective to bear on the learning, development, capability and performance of individual managers, taking account of their context. This resource in the set is to help leadership and management developers embed learning in a way that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning process, using some systemic principles.

This resource deals with a well-known, long-standing problem for trainers and developers. That is, how to get learning that is acquired in one setting (say, a classroom) to transfer to another setting (i.e. the learner’s workplace). Put another way, how to get what the individual has learned formally (usually offsite) applied to benefit the organisation. Very often the teachers and the teaching absolve themselves of that responsibility altogether, being content to be subject centred rather than context centred.

Even teaching systems approaches is not immune from that charge. Some systems-based consultancies teach systems principles devoid of the question of what the organisation’s need is and regardless of what is applied. To be fair, that is often what clients expect and ask for. In the case of this institute, however, we are concerned with the practical matter of application and how that happens.

HOW TO SUPERVISE DEVELOPMENT PROVIDERS

This resource is for developers and senior managers in the client organisation. It will help them examine and improve the organisation’s relationship with development providers.

This is a governance responsibility and activity. There are three elements:

1. For whom, and for what, is the development function/providers responsible?

2. To whom is development accountable for the fulfilment of those responsibilities?

3. How practically can development be required formally to account for its work?

The advice on these issues in this resource is particularly aimed at chief executives or other directors or senior executives who are in a supervisory or oversight relationship with the development function and providers. Below are the relevant questions for such officials to ask. …

HOW TO BALANCE SUPPLY AND DEMAND PERSPECTIVES

This resource will help senior executives and OD professionals stop giving away their power to development providers – both internal and external – and take charge of their own organisation agenda once that has been clearly understood. The aim is to improve the effectiveness of development, and spend the learning and development budget wisely.

This resource complements and builds upon ‘How to conduct an organisation needs analysis’. 

The key question is: How can the organisation pull what it needs and can benefit from rather than be beholden to providers who have something they want to sell and push upon a passive or reactive organisation.

Without this the risk is that development will be subject led and largely independent of context?

The problem arises because developers know far more about the supply side than the demand side. There are several reasons for this:

BIAS FAVOURING PROVIDERS

• The powerful training and development market ensures that prospective client organisations learn about the market’s offerings.

• These products are a lot more fun and sexy than thinking about what is going on in the organisation (the demand side). …

HOW TO DELIVER TODAY’S NEEDS AND ALSO SAFEGUARD TOMORROW

This resource is primarily aimed at organisation developers. It offers practical advice on how to balance two different competing aspects of a manager’s responsibilities, their time commitment, and how they see their role.

These somewhat neglected twin aspects of a manager’s responsibilities are broadly analogous to the more familiar distinction between the urgent and the important, the immediate term and the longer term, today and tomorrow. But ‘tomorrow’ is not simply further away in time. The issue is whether what the manager is doing today may hold implications for tomorrow: a price or benefits. And if so, what should one do in one’s job?

Most managers are paid to deliver performance against today’s needs. In doing so they are expected not to jeopardise tomorrow. Some managers’ jobs go further and expect managers to act in a way that positively safeguards tomorrow by seeking improvement and handling change.

These twin responsibilities highlight an important difference between two different kinds of activity: the first is more clearly management, and the second moves the manager into the realm of leadership. …

HOW TO UNDERTAKE AN ORGANISATION NEEDS ANALYSIS

This resource will help senior managers and OD professionals switch their focus on needs analysis from the individual onto the organisation, and from training needs to wider organisational needs.

Almost everyone in an organisation has heard of training needs analysis. You have probably yourself taken part in such a discussion with your manager, or perhaps as someone else’s manager. But there are new and alternative ways of thinking about and undertaking a needs analysis (actually often a ‘wants’ analysis).

Whose needs? What if the who is a what? What if the who is not an individual? In which case, who or what else might it be? Might the needs exist at a collective level? Might the needs be organisational, i.e. saying something about how well or how poorly the organisation is performing ‘systemically’ – the level that leads people to blame the system why they can’t do what should be done.

These twin responsibilities highlight an important difference between two different kinds of activity: the first is more clearly management, and the second moves the manager into the realm of leadership. …

HOW TO SEE AND PLUG GAPS IN YOUR ORGANISATION

This resource will help senior managers and OD professionals notice and name the myriad gaps in their organisation down which things fall or escape, like a leaking pipe, including talent, goodwill, motivation and leadership.

Judging from most companies’ training and development activity, appraisal practice, and needs analysis you might expect the most crucial gaps in an organisation would be in individuals’ abilities. But this is not so. Most gap-closing energy is misdirected. For example, HR’s easiest and most popular gap-closing question is ‘What training do you need?’.

But this focus on the individual is far less important to the business’s performance than other kinds of gap in the system and the gaps in relationships. By ‘relationships’ we mean between colleagues, between hierarchical levels, between departments, between individuals and company policies and protocols. And so on. We shall explore these. …

HOW TO MAKE DEVELOPMENT MORE STRATEGIC

This resource is for leadership and management developers. Its aim is to embed learning in a way that improves the efficiency and effectiveness of the learning process, using some systemic principles. Here we try to make development more strategic.

In most organisations the activity of ‘development’ (both ‘leadership’ and ‘management’) is commonly assumed to apply to individual managers. In reality it is mostly leader development, an attempt to help individual managers (even if they are in an en masse programme) to see themselves as leaders and to become better leaders.

But for some practitioners the term leadership development refers to development of the organisation’s process of leadership, encompassing a collective, collegiate, team or system dimension. This is our preferred usage, and it usually entails some organisation development (OD) action. …

HOW TO COUNTER NATURAL DISORDER, DEGENERATION AND DECLINE

This resource is for organisation developers. It will help them better understand the forces that contribute to and explain much of the phenomena experienced in organisation life, and assess how they might help the organisation respond appropriately.

Just as everything that lives follows a natural growth curve during its life (see ‘How to interpret your S-Curve lifecycle’), so too life is subject to physical forces known as ‘entropy’. These universal and natural forces ensure that every living thing declines from a state of greater order towards a state of greater disorder.

To take one example: some readers may remember Enoch Powell’s essay: ‘All political careers end in failure’; much the same is true of chief executives’ careers. In the main it’s depressingly one way, downhill.

Think of your desk or a child’s room – that is, if left to nature and no remedial action is taken. As well as decline, degeneration and disorder, you can think about other D’s: disorganisation, decay, disease, damage, deceit, denial, destruction, dispose. You may be able to think of even more. How about Depressed! …

HOW TO MAKE THE UNDISCUSSABLE DISCUSSABLE

This resource will help senior managers and OD professionals liberate less politically inhibited conversations in their organisations.  This resource builds upon ‘How to conduct an organisation needs analysis’ (because it’s counter cultural) and ‘How to balance supply and demand’ (because the demand-side is painful for the organisation to own up to and discuss).

This resource connects with ‘How to see the system you are in’ and ‘How to improve the health of the fishtank’. It may help if you see those items, plus ‘The Fishtank Metaphor’ in this website’s Theories, Definitions and Principles. The connection we are making here is that people’s surroundings in an organisation are always political but this is rarely formally acknowledged or discussed.

Even the undiscussability of certain matters in the organisation will itself not be discussed, at least not formally.

If you conduct an audit of the ‘water’ that ‘the fish’ are required to swim in, one of the main contaminants that clouds the water and clouds people’s worklife quality, will be …

HOW TO INTERVENE IN THE SHADOW SYSTEM

This resource is for all managers and developers. It will help see and manage the full spectrum of organisation life and behaviour. The practical advice flows directly from the ideas explained in ‘The shadow side of organisation life’ and ‘Inter-group shadow behaviour’, both in this website’s Understanding Systemic Leadership section. These should be read first.

The idea is that employees, including managers, inevitably spend much, if not most, of their working time in their organisation’s shadow system. This is the half of the organisation’s life that is non-rational, and lacks legitimacy and formality. It is where the unwritten rules hold sway. A willingness to admit to the shadow system’s existence and some understanding of organisation psychology helps make sense of what is going on.
The skilful manager learns:

1. how to become more streetwise without tipping over into cynicism and becoming Machiavellian.

2. how your organisation’s formal and informal systems can better co-exist.

3. how your formal organisation can learn from and benefit from the upside of the shadow system.

A good starting point is …

HOW TO AVOID AND DISMANTLE SILOS

This resource is for senior executives and organisation developers. It tackles the problem of the ubiquitous siloed structures that bedevil organisations, with the aim of improving whole system performance.

The resource complements a number of others, including ‘How to lead and manage change’.

‘Silos’ is a commonly used metaphor to describe stand-alone organisation structures that are reminiscent of tall storage containers of grain on farms. Such organisation structures are frequently seen as a major obstacle to more integrated whole-system organisational relationships and performance.

People working inside these silo structures may not see the wider organisation problem. But those working outside them may feel negatively affected. Senior executives to whom a number of silos report, often see silos as self-serving obstacles to higher performance by the organisation as a whole. …

HOW TO IMPROVE THE HEALTH OF THE FISHTANK

This resource is for any manager at any level, and all professional advisers, and directly flows from ‘How to see the system you are in’ and before that ‘The Fishtank Metaphor’ in this website’s Theories, Definitions and Principles section.

Before you begin to work with this latest resource, please first read and study those two items. You will then be best placed to apply what you have learnt to bring about real improvements to your workplace environment and your place in that.

The principle behind using the metaphor of the fishtank to represent people’s experience of their workplace environment is this: people’s work behaviour, performance and quality of personal relationships is strongly affected by what surrounds them, individually and collectively – the nature and quality of their multiple relationships and interactions with the system.

Our ‘selves’ at work are not isolatable and independent of the relationships we have with other people (colleagues, bosses, etc.). Nor are we unaffected by organisation factors or variables such as incentives, and particularly hierarchy. By the latter we mean both the presence of differences in status and power, and also how the hierarchy operates practically. We personally choose how we relate to those system conditions and all those things we call the organisation culture and may refer to or blame as ‘the system’. …

HOW TO CLARIFY PERCEPTIONS OF LEADERSHIP ACTION TO TAKE

This resource will help managers with the thinking that underpins whether and what leadership action they decide to take. It helps connect your subjective perceptions with the options you face for taking action based on those perceptions. It then considers the related topic of one’s perspective and how perspective and perception affect views of reality.

The principle behind using the metaphor of the fishtank to represent people’s experience of their workplace environment is this: people’s work behaviour, performance and quality of personal relationships is strongly affected by what surrounds them, individually and collectively – the nature and quality of their multiple relationships and interactions with the system.
Our ‘selves’ at work are not isolatable and independent of the relationships we have with other people (colleagues, bosses, etc.).

Nor are we unaffected by organisation factors or variables such as incentives, and particularly hierarchy. By the latter we mean both the presence of differences in status and power, and also how the hierarchy operates practically. We personally choose how we relate to those system conditions and all those things we call the organisation culture and may refer to or blame as ‘the system’. …

HOW TO BUILD A SYSTEM IMPROVEMENT STRATEGY

This resource is for senior managers and organisation developers. It will help you implement, a comprehensive strategy for improving your system’s performance from a managerial and leadership perspective.

This resource is a natural follow-up after using ‘How to improve the health of the ‘fishtank’

Once you have completed the preceding resource, take a look at this list of generic systemic principles as they apply to using leadership. As you read them keep in mind your own organisation and what it needs in terms of improvement and change.

RELEASING LEADERSHIP TO IMPROVE THE WAY THE ORGANISATION WORKS

• Abandon the idea of generic management skills training for individual managers. Instead, work on the system and the interconnections. For example, get people together to ask them how the system is getting in the way of them doing their job, and how it can be improved.

• Don’t conflate leadership development with applied leadership in action. There are several ways of improving leadership action other than through capability development activity. …

HOW TO LEAD AND MANAGE CHANGE

This resource is mainly for organisation developers and senior executives.</strong></em>

The process of change also links with some of the other resources; e.g. ‘How to sort good bureaucracy from bad’, ‘How to conduct an organisation needs analysis’, ‘How to distribute leadership more widely’ and ‘How to avoid and dismantle silos’.

Views on the management of change are fast evolving, especially in the light of complexity science. The new sciences, including systems thinking, are challenging assumptions about top-down hierarchical working, and the limited reality of managerial predictability and control.

Added to this, the centuries old Newtonian paradigm is being supplanted by a modern one that recognises the limits to linear connecting of cause and effect, especially where there is a social dimension. There is thus a reaction against procedures that seem overly mechanistic, and this includes change management. …

HOW TO USE PARALLEL STREAMS TO BRING ABOUT CHANGE

This resource is mainly for organisation developers and top executives. It will help complement rational, conventionally managed change processes with more pluralistic approaches that reflect the messy reality of organisation relationships. 

The process of change also links with some of the other resources; e.g. ‘How to sort good bureaucracy from bad’, ‘How to conduct an organisation needs analysis’ and ‘How to distribute leadership more widely’. See the full list at the end of this resource.

In the context of managing or bringing about change, it can be worth encouraging some ‘cross-thread’ streams comprising mixed department/grade teams.

These help loosen and complement what will be happening through an official change-management process and the role of management within the organisation’s regular structure. Participating managers in such informal hybrids retain their formal role too, of course, but the group dynamic is different. …

HOW TO INTERPRET YOUR S-CURVE LIFECYCLE

This resource will help all managers and developers, especially OD professionals, as the lifecycle principle covers all things that have life. This includes, jobs, careers, tenure, products, organisations, ideas, structures, fashions, and so on. As such, everyone employed in organisational life needs to understand how they and their effectiveness and success depends on responding to these multiple lifecycles.

Below is a curve representing an organisation’s growth during its life, running from left to right. It is known as an S-Curve, owing to its shape, also known as the Sigmoid Curve. The picture shows a second S-Curve heading up to the right, starting life just as the initial curve is beginning to run out of steam and show signs of plateauing.

This pattern applies to all living systems. Anything that has life experiences growth and decline – a lifecycle. That is true of our own lives and our careers. It is true of companies, the economy, cultures, markets, organisation designs, and ideas. It affects the life of management fads, a product such as a mobile phone, a CEO’s tenure, political power, relationships. …

HOW TO HOLD MANAGERS TO ACCOUNT FOR THEIR LEADERSHIP

This resource is for top executives and organisation developers. It will help their organisation design and manage the accountability aspect of a leader’s job by putting in place a process for holding senior managers to account for the way they conduct their leadership role.

The accountability process should be formally invoked when there is a need to ensure that the management of important responsibilities, activities and projects is successful. It should not be invoked only to confront managers when things have gone wrong.

Being considered accountable is often simply assumed to be the case as a result of occupying an accountable job. The common assumption is that managers are expected to behave responsibly and effectively in their jobs, until something goes wrong. Formally ‘being held to account’ is often spoken of only in the event of major failure. But this limited view of needing to account is risky: a well-managed process of being required to account should be viewed as an element of good management practice and of governance and be carried out at any critical time.

The mantra is ‘Hold people to account for what they need to do, as well as for what they have done – wrongly!’ …

HOW TO DISTINGUISH SUCCESSFUL FROM EFFECTIVE LEADERS

This resource is primarily for senior executives and management developers who may wish to avoid being fooled by successful leaders and think that they are necessarily therefore also effective leaders. All managers might usefully reflect on what this says about them, their motivations and who is being served.

Which of these outcomes do organisations need, want and admire in leaders and managers – success or effectiveness? They are not the same. Are leaders and managers who have been successful likely to have been effective and that this explains their success?

Is success the consequence and prize for known effectiveness? Or are leaders who are seen as successful in their present job simply assumed, without too much thought, also to be effective in that job? And what is the difference anyway? How are these twin attributes related? …

HOW TO LEAD EXECUTIVES WHO ARE THEMSELVES LEADERS

This resource is for senior executives who have reporting to them managers whose job it is to manage improvement and change, or they supervise senior managers who themselves oversee hands-on leadership action undertaken by yet other managers. 

Beyond the leadership role of most managers lies a higher-level, more strategic leadership role held by directors, department heads, senior executives and more senior managers. Reporting to these senior people are managers who have direct, hands-on responsibility for managing improvement and change. Their role includes initiating, overseeing and holding to account other managers.

The senior executive’s role often kicks off major corporate, system-wide change when needed. One can think about these roles in systems terms. In conventional reporting structures neither the change processes nor other managers’ involvement can happen without there first being a process (a system) to promote, establish and sustain it. …

HOW TO APPRAISE PERFORMANCE SYSTEMICALLY

This resource is for use by managers, their line supervisor, and developers. It will help managers understand and adopt a systemic approach in managing people’s performance, especially their leadership performance.

Letting the system into the room to feature in performance conversations

The general thrust of this resource is to add a systemic dimension to the traditional way of viewing and discussing performance. Historically, the individual has been taken to be the prime unit of an organisation’s performance worthy of ritual appraisal. Individuals are assumed to be autonomous, self-contained and accordingly able to succeed or fail alone; they only have themselves to blame for their performance, as it were.

The individual’s goals, results, skill, know-how, motivation, effort and training have been taken to be the proper focus of appraisal discussion. Another out-of-date norm is that the organisation works rather like a machine, where the level above you is rightfully placed to know about and judge your performance. …

HOW TO CONDUCT GOVERNANCE SYSTEMICALLY

This resource will help chief executives and executive directors who hold a governance responsibility for how well the organisation works as a system, how it manages strategic risks, and how to put in place and improve the performance of a soundly conceived governance arrangement

People who embrace a systems perspective see systems everywhere, including in governance arrangements. With that in mind, we are interested in looking at the following areas:

How well the organisation works as an integrated whole when viewed as a system.
How well the organisation’s leaders are able to think systemically.
How well the organisation’s leadership process itself works as a system.
How well the process of change and improvement works from a systemic perspective.

In relation to these and other contexts, how well designed and structured is the governance process.

HOW TO SORT GOOD BUREAUCRACY FROM BAD

This resource is mainly for organisation developers and top executives. This resource will help your organisation tame any tendency for bureaucracy to get out of hand. 

Bureaucracy can include new announcements, edicts, regulations, rules, standing orders, protocol, gatekeepers (individuals and departments), requests for statistics, forms to be completed. It also includes the design of work structures such as requirements for checking work quality and completion, the role of targets, the monitoring of productivity, the design of IT solutions, committee structure, and taken-for-granted norms such as ‘X decisions need to be referred to Y’.

There are examples of both good and bad bureaucracy. Bureaucracy is unavoidable, and if done well it is essential and positive. But it is often not seen that way or like that at all. It also has a tendency to grow inexorably, and from time to time needs attention, revisiting, culling, or streamlining. …

HOW TO MANAGE LEADERSHIP TALENT POLICY

This resource is for senior managers and leadership developers, especially those with an interest in talent management and policy. We suggest you first read ‘Joined-up HR’ in the Understanding Systemic Leadership section of this website.

Talk of talent is popular. Look at the jobs advertised for a Talent Director. But we need to ask ‘Is the talk and policy systemic?’. This is possibly the most important question when tackling any HR and organisation subject. It is especially true of talent management.

Much people-based activity fails the test when you ask ‘Is it systemically robust?’ Talent management is especially vulnerable because talking up the individual’s role in the organisation’s fortunes can be at the expense of seeing and valuing the relationships in the system. Treating some especially chosen individuals increases that risk. …

HOW TO IMPROVE LEADERSHIP USING THE FULL HR SPECTRUM

This resource is for developers to help them see and take action to improve the application of leadership in the organisation by intervening in many employment contexts – which we refer to here as the HR spectrum.</em></strong>

Our advice in this resource is the antidote to the assumption that leadership is the product of leadership development alone. Not so, we say.

Ask to speak to any chief executive about leadership and he/she will probably refer you to HR. Most large organisations typically make this false equation between leadership and leadership development. As a consequence they (i) neglect the applied aspect of leadership, and (ii) leave interventions to one specialist part of the HR spectrum and one set of professionals.

The development function then tries to improve leadership through development programmes and related processes, usually targeting individuals and teams. This can give too little attention to the collective dimension and to the organisational/systemic – aspects we consider elsewhere. …

HOW TO TACKLE PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL ABUSE

This resource will help managers who witness, are aware of, or experience bullying in some form in their organisation, know that action is needed, but are uncertain what to do and who should do it.

This has a strong association with the resource ‘How to intervene in the shadow system’ and other shadow-related documents in this website’s Understanding Systemic Leadership section, as well as ‘How to make the undiscussable discussable’.

Physical and psychological abuse is most prevalent in strongly hierarchical organisations. Wide power differentials, macho cultures, incentives, demanding targets, tough training methods, and a racial mix are factors that make physical and psychological abuse more likely.

Military style contexts, such as prisons, fire service, police and the armed forces suffer their fair share. But no organisation is exempt. Individual and systemic abuse are found in care homes, families and schools, and religious organisations, even Oxfam. Abuse takes many forms, including bullying and sexual exploitation. …