In a recent interview for an online publication, I was asked what can companies do to promote the people first agenda, in times of unprecedented organizational volatility and job losses?

My answer was that having a customer first mindset, would be a great start. Why? Because OD and HR Practitioners need to constantly place the customer at the root of their thinking. This may seem a little ‘anti-people’ at first glance, but the truth of the matter is that organisations exist to meet the needs of customers – not employees.

Ultimately, the key to ‘Better work & better working lives’  is to have an organisation that is as closely aligned to the customer as possible – with effective and relevant organizational structures, processes and practices that people find meaningful and can ascribe to.  This holistic approach to marrying customer and employee outcomes is the domain of Organisational Design (ODS), Development (ODV) and change management initiatives. Each discipline is vast in itself, so for the rest of this article I will try to be as practical and insightful as possible.

With this in mind, lets see how customer success is arrived at, in a practical way, through ODS, ODV and Change Management.


Start with the hard elements of your organisation, i.e. your Structures, Strategies, Systems, Policies etc.  Use a framework that best suits your organisation. The Galbraith model is good. McKinsey’s 7’S model, I find, is easily understandable to internal stakeholders. The delineation between ODS and ODV can also be mapped onto it as well.
Questions to ask when re/designing an organisation might be:

  • Are customer metrics and feedback mechanisms (e.g. NPS, complaints, requirements) redriving how we design our Strategy?
  • To what degree do we use design thinking or involve our customers in shaping our organisation?
  • Are legacy systems outdated to the new VUCA  customer environment? Examples of this new reality include home working where data suggests that the city center HQ model is giving way to satellite regional offices/wework spaces, with many firms post pandemic opting for deskspace for only 50% of their workers
  • Would horizon scanning be of help to us to realign more towards the customer, to answer questions such as What will our customers need, want or expect next?

If you decide to use this method, make sure you involve a diverse set of stakeholders at various levels of the organisation. It is time well spent and it will help with staff alignment for the change that needs to happen.

Be careful not to think that changing your organizational chart = changing your organisation. This will most likely devolve into ego’s being bruised and power politics being put before what best suits the customer. Do this last. Put the customer first.


Once you have a stakeholder consensus the ‘what’ of what needs to change, formalize it in associated Strategy, Structure and Systems planning. Making these formal elements a reality is the field of ODV, brought to life with change management.

Let’s take Job redesign for example. New ODS structures may require relooking at how work needs to be done, to better meet the needs of the customer. Certain knowledge skills and abilities may have to change within these roles. Here a Job Analysis and Job Redesign process should be followed. Again, many models can be used. You must however, as mentioned in the beginning of this article, ensure that jobs are still personally meaningful, if they are to be changed. Research in a recent article by the Harvard Business Review links meaningful work to customer success. According to this research, three behavioural elements should be considered in designing/redesigning a job:

Play is when you like the work itself. You work because you enjoy it. A trainer at play enjoys the core activities of training — creating engaging activities, games, insightful content or by engaging deeply with their students. ‘Play is our learning instinct, and it’s tied to curiosity, experimentation, and exploring challenging problems’.

Purpose is when the outcomes of the job fits your identity. You work because you value the work’s impact. For example, a trainer identifies with impacting the lives of their students or a coach in helping coachess to gain personal insight for change.

Potential is when the outcome of the job benefits you. In other words, the work enhances your potential. For example, a trainer might be doing their role very well in the hope they will progress to work with more senior learners.

Traditionally, Job Analysis and Job Redesign do not normally include these intrinsic elements. Technically the job analysis and job redesign processes are heavily data reliant, and for good reason. Data is an empirical reason to change something. The same applies for strategic workforce planning. 

Making a role as interesting, engaging and developmental as possible however will satisfy the employee more and in turn the customer. Involve individuals already in these roles therefore in the redesign process.

Change Management

There are a number of frameworks that you can use to bring your ODV initiative into reality and to embed it. Depending on the organisation and culture, one/a number of the following could be applied: ADKAR Analysis, Culture Mapping, Force Field Analysis, Kotter’s 8 Step Change Model, Lewin’s Change Model. No matter which model is chosen however, we know that 70 percent of change programs fail to achieve their goals, largely due to employee resistance and lack of management support.

Using our job redesign example, it is critical to have a co-design process with staff. After all, they know the job best as they do it. You will be a lot more likely be successful with this partnership approach than just announcing the newly redesigned role. 

This approach addresses most of the reasons why people resist change  :

  • Loss of job or change of role [loss of status]
  • Fear of the unknown
  • They don’t understand why the change is happening
  • Poor communication
  • Change fatigue
  • No involvement
  • Organizational politics and mistrust
  • Perception of historical change

Behavioural change takes a long time, except when it doesn’t. Covid-19 has shown us that organisations can be rapidly adaptive when leaders and staff possess a shared change mindset.

(Desmond Williams is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development (CIPD). He is a Co-Founder of TribusAgile Pte Ltd. – a Singapore based company, helping organisations to get closer to their customer by applying agile organizational design and development methods. He uses offline and online people transformation consulting, coaching and blended learning training expertise to do this.
He is the sole CIPD APAC trainer for its prestigious Advanced Award in Organizational Design and Development – a Post Graduate qualification. He facilitates a number of online and offline course with CIPD Asia, such as Strategic Workforce Planning and Job Analysis and Job Redesign.)

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