With Richard Tait / 5 September 2019 

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Things are changing fast for organisations. It’s an exciting time, but it’s also creating change-induced headaches for leaders and employees alike.

If you’ve looked at surveys of organisational leaders in recent years asking them about their most significant challenges, there are common themes – things like the impact of digital transformation on business models, the shift to being genuinely customer-centric, and the changing expectations that staff have at work and about work.

Also high up the list are fears about how to maintain trust in the purpose and culture of organisations, and attracting and keeping talented staff.

Most leaders are in the throes of responding to some or all of these challenges. These responses are having a profound impact on what organisations do and how they do it, and on how they create and sustain the meaning and value that both staff and customers are looking for.


It seems we’ve finally been forced to move beyond the machine metaphors for organisations. Arie de Geus wrote a book called The Living Company in 1997, which talked about organisations and their evolution in more biological terms. But still the machine language of management theory has endured, along with a focus on driving change through structural means and ‘pulling levers’.

Up to a point the machine approach has worked, which is probably why it’s persisted for more than a century. The problem is that machines need a designer or controller to tell them when and how to change, and the change process is longer and more complicated the bigger the organisation gets.

The accelerating pace of change means that flexibility, adaptiveness and innovation are now more than ever the currencies of organisational success – often at a more localised or devolved level than ever before.


Organisational leaders nowadays are recognising that setting up an organisation to be adaptive is about more than structure. It is often the ‘soft stuff’ that will make a big difference, but that stuff is also the hardest to change and influence, which means it tends to be given less attention.

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Over the coming months MartinJenkins will be publishing an insights series into some of these topics around ‘the way we work’. We’ll be unpacking this soft stuff, reflecting on some ideas that organisations are adopting to help them sustain and increase their value as the pace of change accelerates.

Topics the series will look at include:

  • Aligning your organisation’s work around a meaningful, sustainable purpose

  • Designing a future-ready workforce

  • Practical strategies to shape culture and behaviour change

  • How to make flexible and agile work practices stick.

We are starting with a piece by Senior Consultant and Future of Work specialist Nicky Jones on key barriers to change reported by Auckland businesses – including one that might surprise you.
Read Nicky's article Possible vs probable futures here.

We’d also like to hear from you about other Future of Work topics that you would like to see us write about. Contact us at


About the author

Richard Tait is one of MartinJenkins Directors. His specialist areas are strategy and organisational performance, review and design. He works with a wide variety of clients to help them define their goals and priorities, understand what is driving their performance, and identify practical opportunities and solutions for lifting performance. Richard is known for his ability to quickly understand each client’s specific context, to identify the issues, and to communicate problems and solutions in an accessible way.

Richard Tait 2019

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