Ways of Working: Organisational Models

How to engage your organisation to better serve customers and simplify the business


We believe …
… that the best investment an organisation can make is in improving how its people collaborate.

We adopt a highly-participatory approach to facing organisational challenges. Matter doesn’t supply pre-cooked answers but rather builds a collaborative forum in which the people who are affected by an organisational change are brought into the design and implementation of that change process.

How to engage your organisation to better serve customers and simplify the business

Most large organisations have either a functional/hierarchical structure or are managed as matrices.

Although alternatives to these two models are frequently discussed, they are rarely implemented at scale. Organisation models with names like Supercell Autonomy, Holocracy, and Participatory Self-Organisation litter the business press, and contain excellent insights; however, most large organisations adopt a model that tends towards a functional structure or towards a matrix.

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Both of these structures have strengths and weaknesses and when our clients choose to shift from one organisational design to another, it is usually because the burden of the existing design’s weaknesses is perceived to be greater than the trauma of transitioning.

Our clients call us either when they plan to shift to an alternative design or have recently done so and face challenges making the new design work effectively.

When we are called before an organisation model is launched, our job is to:

Help you identify the latent strengths of your as-is model, both to help you assess the real cost of change and to identify those elements that should be preserved in the new model.
Help you and your team collaboratively design the to-be model, to optimise its strengths, mitigate its weaknesses, and ensure understanding and buy-in to avoid the natural resistance to change.

A Major Italian Insurer

The small Leadership Team of a major insurer was receiving growing feedback from dissatisfied customers – especially large corporates. We convened the top 55 executives for a three-day DesignForum to inject customer-centricity into the heart of this insurer’s structure and its DNA.

This large team mapped the strengths and weaknesses of its product- oriented structure and designed a new, market-centric structure so that the remarkable technical expertise that grew up around the product focus could be maintained while ensuring the responsiveness and strategic coherence of a needs- and customer- centric organisation. The same team mapped out a robust transition plan.

The transition was launched immediately following the DesignForum. The speed and lack of friction of this transition was remarkable. Where resistance did arise – particularly in a business unit where individual expertise was felt to have been devalued – we continued to facilitate and re ne the transition plan and the to-be model.

When we are called a er a new organisation model is launched, our job is to:

  • Help those who might feel they are the objects of change to become the protagonists of the new organisation.
  • Co-design ways of working that optimise the to-be structure while maintaining the historic strengths and pride that individuals might feel is jeopardised by change.
  • Identify and manage those aspects of the organisational transition that caused the greatest resistance and generated the least value.

A Major Aerospace Manufacturer

Together with our partner WoW: Ways of Working, we worked with the engineering division of a major aerospace manufacturer to reduce the complexity inherent in its three- dimensional matrix organisation. Our task was to facilitate the radical simplification and acceleration of decision-making processes without sacrificing the technical excellence that represented the pride and the growth platform for this company.

We facilitated a three-day DesignForum for the top 120 engineers to co-design principles of simplification. These principles were then applied, department- by-department, in subsequent DesignFora across the entire division. To alleviate friction and accelerate the transition to the simpler paradigm, our partners ran an Acceleration Zone on- site for nearly two years, thus reducing the costs and the risks associated with this enormous change in the division’s ways of working.