Gabazira's blog

The Effectiveness-Lab

It’s more than organizational design – the 4 manipulatives

Apparently, HR management is the last remaining source of competitive advantage.

Organisations have crafted cutting edge strategy, design and implemented cutting-edge businesses processes, some of them deploying the best ERP’s, and hired the very best in leadership positions and on their teams. In effect, they have managed so well all the four OV’s, but still, fail.

The art of manipulatives

Where is the problem?

The answer partly lies in not manipulating HR management invisible factors. We call these factors HR management manipulatives.

A good leader, strategy, and efficient and effective organizational architecture may not bring about the market impact firms are looking for. Even having all four OV’s may not always help. There is more to it.

HR management manipulatives make up a significant chunk of the glue that binds together the four OV’s.  Deployment of HR management manipulatives is an invisible game, played subtly across OV contexts

The manipulatives are critical organization-climate enablers. They are ‘soft’ in nature and different from the ‘hard’ HR processes and tools like job descriptions, organization structure charts, performance appraisal tools, HR policy, etc.

You can’t write HR management manipulatives into an HR policy. They are intangible. HR practitioners are best placed to get the pulse on these manipulatives and report back to management

HR management manipulatives:

  • The body politic of the organization:

A good CEO will know that those good employees don’t work for them only for the money. Good employees look for the fulfillment that comes from satisfying their inner sense. Moreover, an inner spirit that many employees can’t name. It’s a mysterious state of feeling-good and achievement, so innate to the individual that when attained, they find themselves wanting to stay in the organization. It’s equivalent to visiting your girlfriend or boyfriend at college on the first sleep out between the two of you – and you end up wanting to stay in their apartment forever. Something innate gets you to want to stay. When that happens, the politic in that particular situation will have attained a state of positive-imbalance that tilts towards the individual’s inner sense.

Yet, leaders continue to get this stuff wrong. They continue to engage and treat others in a manner that isn’t considerate, tactful or diplomatic. Leaders that have the right chip in their heads get the body politic at the organizations right and those that don’t, won’t, whatever amount of coaching they get. It’s a leadership quintessence issue. It’s the inner sense of the leader that is corrupted, almost akin to cancer cells in our bodies. Usually, no amount of ‘OD chemotherapy’ will fix this shortage of HR management manipulative. When it does, remission is normally short-lived – remember it’s an internal programming thing

  • The body language dilemma

The one thing employees at an organization see almost daily and tend to remain bewildered by, are the body languages of their leaders. Welcome to the body-language enigma. Body language is the leader’s non-verbal manifestation where the physical behavior and not words, express and convey messages to those around them. CEO’s and their teams underestimate the impact of their body-language on the climate at an organization.

Sadly, for those in leadership, the impact of body language on those they lead only comes to light hours, days, and weeks or months after a particular body language event. The body language of leaders can undermine or build trust amongst those they lead, destroy confidence, and lead to a general disengagement with the brand.

When people that work for individual leaders start reading the body situation and interpret it as harmful or repulsive, there is likely to be brand regression. If employees are the brand’s most valuable asset and ambassadors, you may want to think twice about what your body language ’says’ to those around you.

  • The feel-good factor

When the organization’s body politic is right, and people at the organization show particular affinity with their leaders, people start to feel-good. There are usually no external manifestations of a feel-good situation. It’s an innate condition where people at organizations feel valued, respected, included and relevant. A leader should have the ‘intangibles’ to deliver a feel-good environment

Feel-good situations can’t be coerced. Leaders fall into the trap of thinking that good pay and other goodies are all that employees need to work for them and deliver. Well, it’s more than that. Leaders should have the wherewithal to behave in a certain way and treat staff well, to engender mannerisms and cultures at the organization that make people feel good.

It is a brand passion and trust matter. The solution to this internal feel-good dilemma is different for every organization. It all boils down to the leader having the right people management DNA and not creating Gestapo’s and the uncertainty they bring to organizations

  • The unconditional love for the brand

When an organization’s body politic/language plus feel-good dynamics are right, employees and the external people that relate to the organization get to love the brand. Do you ever take the pulse of staff in regards to brand-perception? Don’t fool yourself – there are two scenarios in brand perception management, and one is bad for your organization and the other one good.

First, staff sitting warm in their various organizational chart boxes, listening to all sound-bites about strategy and leadership philosophy but paying little attention to them, doing just enough to keep the show on the road, and waiting to take a paycheque home. Second, staff warming up to every soundbite about strategy and leadership philosophy or direction, pro-actively working to create value, going the extra mile, and playing the positive brand ambassador role. The first scenario undermines value creation and ultimately the bottom line and the second does the very opposite – i.e., boosts the bottom line or impact for those that aren’t after making a profit.

CEO’s helped by HR practitioners should try and find out the love their staff give the brand. A quick acid test is to find out the adjectives staff use to describe the brand

There indeed are more HR manipulatives, but we chose to focus on the above four.

It takes more than good organizational design

Organizations that have gotten their HR management manipulatives right have specific common characteristics. Yes, they have all the OV’s: good Leaders, effective Strategies, the right Design, and People.

However, they also have: a clear Mission that everyone works to achieve; a strong culture that engages people; focus on people which empowers individuals resulting in employee satisfaction and retention, and finally, transparency which translates into people at the organization knowing and accepting that they aren’t perfect and are willing to admit it.  With all this, such firms attract and retain the very best employees

In line with the bionic entity theory, effectiveness will undoubtedly accrue to those companies that combine the various OV velocities – leadership, strategy, design the subject of this blog, and people. However, the horizontal integration of the four OV’s is not viable without the OD. glue – the HR management manipulatives, delivered via the best-practice HR management culture



One response to “It’s more than organizational design – the 4 manipulatives”

  1. Thanks for sharing,all well said.


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About Me

Apollo B. Gabazira is an Ugandan OD. junkie fascinated by matters that render organisations/individuals effective or not. He blogs on effective leadership and management. He is a devoted green-farmer and breeds the Ayrshire cow at Nakabugu, Luuka district, Uganda. Apollo is quite effective at what he chooses to do.


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