Three things to keep an eye on for organisational success

At the end of last year I first published my FRE framework.  I have been bowled over by the many positive comments. It clearly resonated.

To recap, after over 30 years analysing and supporting organisations I distilled what I think are the three key factors for organisation success summarised by the acronym 'FRE'. 

Firstly, focus. Is the purpose of the organisation shared? Is the strategy clear – is it understood? Has the governing group set out its intentions (and limitations) for the wider staff to work toward and within? Do individuals know how their particular role contributes – and do they realise where their personal motivations fit, and where they do not?

Responsibility: Are staff expected to use their initiative to sort out issues? Do they have freedom to act? Do governing boards avoid overstepping the mark and resist micro-managing the executive – and do line-leaders avoid constraining their staff with overly detailed instructions or the expectation of involvement in all decisions? How clearly are all staff held to account for how they have used their autonomy?

Crucially, example highlights the role of senior leaders in setting the cultural tone for an enterprise plus the part played of line managers in re-iterating this.  It includes the important mechanism of peers in reinforcing, or undermining, the ‘right’ behaviours. Most of us are not saints or sinners, rather we absorb the ways others work. This starts with basic ‘pro-social’ interactions to do with decency and civility.  It extends through to the modelling of focus and responsibility, and other important attributes for successful organisations like curiosity and productive conflict. ‘Example’ is also concerned with making sure the implied attitudes at the core of a business’s purpose are actually demonstrated by staff, in both their dealings with each other as well as with customers.  For example, do we witness 'caring' in all interactions in health services? Is 'learning' seen everywhere in an education provider? What about 'speed' for a high street fashion brand?

There are a few things to invest in to help the journey to FRE.  To an outsider, these are sorts of 'bellwethers' - indicators of wider organisation issues and FRE:

  1. Making sure there is a focus on the most important issues in all meetings - and that those who are courageous in speaking up are encouraged and valued. 'Critical conversations' are the norm.
  2. Different perspectives are considered in developing some sort of shared purpose.  So working for 'alignment' is informed by an awareness of other peoples' views.  This is especially important in those places pursuing a 'noble purpose'.
  3. There are systems and incentives promoting the necessary 'empowerment' based on greater personal responsibility and autonomy.

I have a reading list of books that illustrate and amplify the three FRE themes.

I am enjoying assessing organisations for FRE and their capabilities for moving toward it - and helping leaders and their teams in that journey.


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