The Desire to be the 'One' Organisation

Article 17 April 2019

One of the most common aims amongst clients in recent years is the desire to become ‘one [insert company name]’.

If this is something you’ve been pondering, ask yourself:

  • Why do you need to be ‘one’?

  • What do you mean by ‘one’ – can you describe it another way?

  • If you could achieve a sense of ‘oneness’ what would it give you that you don’t currently have?

  • What is the single definition of identity you have of the organisation that you want people to connect over?

  • What are the parts of the organisation that need benefit from being different?

Sometimes what emerges is that there is no need to homogenise culture – a complex endeavour in of itself – nor align systems or processes. A shared corporate identity or brand may not be the solution to current disparate identities.

What do you want to gain from becoming ‘One’ organisation?

It could be that you want to raise engagement and it seems obvious that a sense of ‘oneness’ will help, and sometimes it might. But that will depend on first understanding what enables or inhibits engagement in that organisation.

Or perhaps the company has grown through acquisition and there is a desire to feel pride and shared identity across the same brand. In that case, I would ask what pride and shared identity would look and feel like and work with my client to build foundations and a pathway from there.

These are all cases where we jump to a solution without having fully identified the required outcomes.

So the starting place of my work with clients is to discern what needs to be different as a result of our work together.

Sometimes that discernment is as easy as asking the above questions, other times it requires a more robust and collaborative process of analysis, diagnostics, and research. It’s my job to enter that enquiry in partnership with my clients as we navigate our way clear.

What is the Sheppard Moscow model for becoming ‘one’?

The trouble with requests for help in becoming ‘One’ is that it has become a suspiciously popular request. As soon as a theme in organisational development becomes popular I’m immediately sceptical!

It’s great to be on board with current trends and what’s happening in the zeitgeist. The ‘90s were all about empowerment, and many organisations are now working hard to bring their values and purpose to life. My scepticism is because I want to make sure my client is crystal clear on ‘why this’, ‘why now’, ‘why us’.

In a similar vein, fashion trends come and go, but not all of them will suit your style, culture, or shape. You can learn from them but execute due caution before you swap out your entire wardrobe – or culture of your organisation.

If building a sense of ‘oneness’ is for you, then let’s start with clarifying what it would truly mean in your context. When it comes to leadership and organisational development there are clear themes and lessons to be learnt, and one, in particular, is that no one size fits all. That applies as much to the process of developing the organisation as it does to the organisation itself.

Olivia.jpeg Olivia Margo