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the future of HR: data-driven organizational design

Published by orgvue

Data-driven org designLast Thursday, 8th of October 2015, marked the release of Rupert Morrison’s highly anticipated book, Data-driven Organization Design (photos at the end of this blog). With close to 200 attendees and talks from Peter Cheese, Chief Executive of the CIPD and Nathan Adams, HR Director at Aviva, the book has captured the minds of those looking to transform HR and OD functions.

It is clear why this book has garnered a lot of attention. It addresses one of today’s most endemic business challenges: how to use the wealth of data and information organisations possess to help employees to perform. This is not just performance in a business context, but also how to help people perform so they can meet their own ambitions.

Closing the Chasm

Peter Cheese talks on the importance of putting people back at the heart of decision-making.

Peter Cheese talks on the importance of putting people back at the heart of decision-making.

While functions such as IT, Finance, and Sales & Marketing have long capitalised on the art of data analytics for strategic decision-making, in most companies, the HR function still lags behind. Even for those prioritising analytics, the few that are furthest along their HR analytics journey have a long way to go. A recent study by Bersin (Deloitte)[1] revealed that while more than 60% of companies today are investing on HR analytics tools, only 14% have actually performed a rigorous statistical analysis of workforce data and a meagre 4% have the capability to perform predictive analytics. The rest are still grappling with chronic data problems, such as missing, outdated or inaccurate data, or are bogged down with producing ad-hoc reports to deliver standard operational metrics.

Consequently, as the book highlights, most business decisions today that directly impact employees have either been made on gut-feel instinct or financial data rather than people and process data. Morrison hammers home, no PowerPoint org chart or Excel spreadsheet have ever done justice to the job of organisation design or the employees they represent. In many ways, the current practice of organisational redesigns and transformations still neglect the people at the heart of them. They fail to focus change on maximising people potential and performance, something Peter Cheese articulated well at the launch. Given that people are an organisation’s greatest asset, such a reality is staggering and one which has to change. The challenge for organisations now is to close the chasm between organisational inputs and business performance outputs.

“This book puts into words what I’ve been trying to explain for years. Managers should read this book to become more data-driven; data-driven people should read it to understand the imperatives of management.”

Stéphane Hamel, Digital Analytics Thought Leader, Immeria

A Story of Transformation

Rupert Morrison talks about the importance of using data analytics to get better insights into the organization.

Rupert Morrison makes the case to use analytics for better insights into the organization.

This book will help HR and organisation design practitioners to cross this chasm, by empowering them with a practical toolkit and roadmap that can be used in high-level planning right down to everyday challenges. Whether carrying out a large or small-scale redesign, this book aims to provide a guide to ensure a successful transformation that will bring long-lasting impact. Nathan Adams, commented that such a guide has been a long time coming and one of the few books out there that addresses the day-to-day challenges of implementing an organisation design, not just the theory.

An illustration of the power of visualisation. Excel table vs Sunburst coloured by engagement,

The power of visualisation. Excel table vs Sunburst coloured by engagement,

The book is split into 3 sections: Micro, Macro and Making it Real. The first section focuses on the big picture, the strategy and the case for organisational change. Here, Morrison warns strongly of implementing a redesign without understanding the risks. Drawing on his own experiences of organisation design, he highlights just how fraught and risky a redesign can be. Instead, he recommends focusing on areas of the organisation which most need improvement and only undertaking a full redesign if there is an overwhelming case for change.

The Micro section outlines how practitioners can get the most out of their data and analytics to link the crucial elements of their business together. To get a “single version of the truth”- a starting point to drive business performance. Practitioners need to first understand the ‘as-is’ of their organisations, through visualisation and analysis, before they can successfully design their ‘to-be’ processes and structures. This is critical, since data, as the book describes is “emotive” and “can be threatening”. By bringing transparency of the organisational ‘as-is’, practitioners can minimise resistance to change and office politics.

Finally, what makes this book so valuable is its focus beyond the elements of good organisational design at the macro- and micro- level, but also its emphasis on making it real. This is the implementation and tracking of any organisational change project. The hardest and most tiring element of a redesign, and yet the most key when it comes to success.

“This book nails it. Honest and practical, it shows you how to deeply analyse and design an organization – and implement it.”

Nathan Adams, HR Director, Aviva

Data-driven Organization Design is set to be a hugely valuable resource for all HR and OD practitioners. It represents the start of a significant shift in thinking when it comes to delivering organisational effectiveness and understanding the impact of people in the organisation.

You can order the book here, using the code “DDMORR20” for a 20% discount

Some photos of the night:

[1] Bersin, J. (2013) Big Data in Human Resources: A World of Haves And Have-Nots. Available at: (Accessed: 8 October 2015).