Taking the right first step to future proof your organisation

At our recent invitation-only round table event, Future proof your organisation with 21st century leadership, we discussed many aspects of the current business environment and the challenge it poses. Some of the key points included:

  1. No one person has all of the answers. Adaptive and shared leadership is the only sustainable way forward
  2. Developing a culture which supports enterprise contribution will result in exponentially improved performance
  3. VUCA environments are a threat, but can become an opportunity if you have the skills and techniques to overcome them
  4. Creating the right level of attachment in your culture will set every one of your employees free to thrive and perform at their best, which in turn improves organisational performance
  5. If you’re a leader, change and culture start with you

But if you are leading an organisation which needs to transform, what is the single most important thing for you to do now to future proof your organisation?

A new perspective on the failure of change programmes

The failure of change programmes is usually attributed to poor execution, but based on a four-year study of 62 corporate transformations, an article in the Harvard Business Review, What Everyone Gets Wrong About Change Management, says something different.

The research team cites what might sound like an obvious, but previously overlooked, cause – organisations often pursue the wrong changes. They advocate that, before worrying about how to change, executive teams need to figure out what to change and in particular, what to change first.

What vs how

For decades senior leadership teams have worried about how to undertake change programmes. Various techniques have been in vogue at different points, and many hours have been spent debating one approach versus another at board tables around the world.

But this analysis paralysis took focus away from the most important aspect of change – what exactly is it that needs to be changed? What changes will have the biggest impact on the organisation’s success? And, crucially, what changes will have the biggest benefit to its stakeholders – both its customers and its team?

Understanding your organisation’s answer to what to change first requires a detailed and thoughtful look at a multitude of factors and metrics. An outside perspective is often helpful in uncovering key insight which can guide successful change programmes.

Transformation done poorly can be very painful. All transformation requires some form of disruption, but negative disruption can have disastrous effects on your business. It can, and often does, lead to confusion, wasted energy, time, effort, and money.

However, transformation can also be, well, for lack of a better term, transformational. Done right, it can position your company to take advantage of the challenges it faces, turning what were once challenges into opportunities.

So, what will your next step be? And how do you know it will be the right one?

Triumpha article one of the most popular in Strategic HR Review

The article, ‘Mapping a Strategic Approach to HR Leadership’ is amongst the most frequently downloaded in Strategic HR Review. Receiving over 700 downloads since publication in 2012.


How pleased am I? Thrilled actually, and wanted to share this news.


I started to write when I founded Triumpha. There were things to say about what matters in organisations and what works in practice, and I was ready to fuel my ambition. Namely, helping others develop extraordinary leadership, leadership teams and breakthrough organisation performance led by people.


I believe that strategic HR has significant potential for modernising management practice, bringing it into line with the needs of the twenty first century organisation. The strategic HR role is typically understood, but there is a difference between this understanding and what happens in practice – the ‘knowing-doing gap. Unfortunately, this means that the potential for HR leaders to make an impactful difference is often never realised.


Mapping a Strategic Approach to HR Leadership uses a case study about our work with a leading retailer and shows:

  • How we closed the ‘knowing-doing’ gap.
  • Five crucial conversations that strategic human resources leaders must catalyse within their organisations.
  • How human resources leaders can build their confidence and strategic capability by working through a planned change process.
  • How to build appetite and expectation for a strategic Human Resources contribution among line colleagues.
  • A staged approach for developing and embedding strategic human resources capability in an HR team.


To read more, download a copy of the full article below.

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Strategic Talent Management

Few CEOs today question the importance of talent to their business. But how many genuinely align the organisation’s strategy with its talent needs? They may say that human capital is their primary concern but too often, ‘talent management’ is relegated to the HR department. This allows vital decisions about the organisation’s future to evolve in siloes – and it’s an outdated approach to organisational transformation.

”Work in the human capital dimension underpins many of the company’s most important decisions about where and how to compete,” according to a recent article by Accenture consultancy.

Selection firm Heidrick & Struggles even notes the emergence of a new discipline, ‘strategic talent management’, among FTSE companies. However, it is a role that has yet to find its place among senior executives.

This is perhaps the only consistent thing about talent management in organisations: there is little direct connection between big-picture strategy and human capital requirements. A KPMG report found that while 81 per cent of business leaders claimed to regard talent as key, only 17 per cent believed HR did a good job in leading that strategy.

This does both HR and the organisation a disservice: “The only route to improved performance is by placing your human resource at the centre of your strategic decision-making,” according to author and London Business School professor Lynda Gratton.

What is needed is a more strategic approach to talent that moves the discussion beyond HR and into the boardroom. It means hardwiring ‘strategic talent management’ into the overarching business plan, and placing it under the leadership of the CEO.

Thinking and acting strategically about talent gives strategy
focus. It’s about getting the right people in the right places at the right time. It is outdated to relegate concepts such as ‘culture’ or engagement to any single division within business: as the recent banking scandals have amply demonstrated, corporate culture is at the heart of any organisation that employs people.

“Talent sits with all parties on the board. It doesn’t matter what role you have: you cannot ignore what is going on in other parts of the business,” says Jon Coverdale, UK HR director at Inchcape former group HR director (CS&S) at BAE Systems. “If only the HR person is interested in talent, that’s a worry – it indicates a degree of myopia on the board.”

There is absolutely a role for talent at the boardroom table and good CEOs will have an HR director there, but it’s a collective responsibility. This, argues Harvard Business School’s John Kotter, is what separates leaders from managers: leadership, he says, is about “taking an organisation into the future, finding opportunities that are coming at it faster and faster” and successfully exploiting them. But it is also “about people buying in, about empowerment and, most of all, about producing useful change.”

Traditional views of strategic talent management have one thing in common: they relegate it to the domain of Human Resources or organisational development (OD) practitioners. CEOs may well acknowledge the importance of talent, but many still see it less in terms of strategy and more in terms of tactics and role filling.

We believe it is essential to hardwire strategic talent management into business planning processes and place it under the direct leadership of the CEO and the senior team.


  • A CEO’s Guide
  • An HR Leader’s Guide
  • White Paper

If you would like a copy of these materials, please email quoting ‘STM’ and we will send you the download links.

Mapping a Strategic Approach to HR Leadership

The quality of HR Leadership in organisations is mixed. When we talk to HR professionals about working strategically, we typically find that ‘common sense is not common practice’. Sometimes people don’t understand what to do, or more usually they understand what to do, but they don’t do it, what we call the ‘knowing-doing’ gap.

Building the strategic capability of Human Resources leaders and their teams is essential. Strategic Human Resources has the potential to modernise management practice, bringing it into line with the needs of the 21st century organisation. HR leadership must strike the balance between business demands and the needs of the organisation and its workforce to adapt to change. This delivers sustainable value for all of the organisation’s stakeholders.

In this paper we cover:

  • How we have closed the HR leadership ‘knowing-doing’ gap in a leading retailer.
  • Five crucial conversations that strategic human resources leaders must catalyse within their organisations.
  • How Human Resources Leaders can build their confidence and strategic capability by working through a planned change process.
  • How to build appetite and expectation for a strategic Human Resources contribution among line colleagues.
  • A staged approach for developing and embedding strategic Human Resources capability in an HR team.

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How to Lead in the New Normal

The business environment will never be the same again. As the new decade unfolds, more and more business leaders and managers who have survived the recession and are rebuilding their organisations are coming to realise that their business models must be overhauled and that the old ways of improving performance and managing change will no longer work. Enter: leading in the new normal.

Leading in the New Normal Key points:

  • We need to steer away from the practice of employing people from the ‘shoulders down’. Today’s knowledge economy demands that we capitalise on individual’s from the neck up, releasing them from command and control management and liberating them to contribute more meaningfully.
  • Leaders must ‘future proof’ their organisations by building the strategic and cultural capabilities which enable them to win in their market place, adapt to change and produce the conditions where people can thrive.
  • Only by looking strategically at the people side of the business can organisations have any chance of delivering sustainable performance.
  • The importance of strategic clarity and having a compelling purpose that goes beyond making money to also making a difference.
  • The power of using pictures and creating the space for conversation in helping make change happen.

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Value of Organisation Development from the CEO’s Perspective

Organisation Development (OD) has had a bad wrap, often accused of being a ‘fluffy’ discipline with some practitioners demonstrating an unhealthy bias towards a people agenda disconnected from business goals.

However given the scale and complexity of the challenges facing today’s organisations, the contribution that organisation development can make to the success of organisations is vital. There is a need to design and develop organisations that are more adaptable, innovative, collaborative, inspiring and ultimately accountable. As such the natural place for the leadership of system-wide organisational change is the CEO.

CEOs need high quality Organisation Development support to help them lead essential business transformation. 
Key points in this article include:

  • The four most significant changes to the CEO role in the last five years.
  • The Leadership challenges that must be addressed are not new. We have been wrestling with them for a while. Today’s ‘stretch’ comes from the amplification of these existing challenges.
  • The one factor that differentiates the most successful CEOs.
  • Organisations that strike a balance between shorter term performance goals and longer term organisational resilience perform two and three times as well as those which only focus on health or performance respectively.
  • Creating and leading organisations that are adaptable, innovative, collaborative, inspiring and accountable used to be the concern of the few. It is now the concern of the many.

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The Changing Role of HR

The role of HR has changed. The industrial age practice of employing people ‘from the shoulders down’ is outdated. In today’s knowledge economy HR must capitalise on individuals ‘from the neck up’ to create a culture in which every employee is liberated and contributes meaningfully.

This article the Changing Role of HR was featured in HR Magazine’s Vision section, a series of in-magazine articles and web content exploring key themes of increasing importance in the future of work. Triumpha’s Andrea Adams was invited to close the series.

Key points in the Changing Role of HR include:

  • To be fit for the future an organisation must have a compelling purpose which goes beyond making money. It’s about doing well (making a profit) and doing good (making a difference).
  • Meeting human needs in the workplace is essential. Human Resources professionals need to design systems and approaches that provide meaning and shape how business is done.
  • People commit to what they help to create:
    •  Goals and change will most likely be accomplished when people are involved in co-constructing the goal, assessing the current state of affairs and defining the route map to move from the desired state to the desired goal.
    • Creating the space for conversations and dialogue which unifies effort and team spirit and supports employees to make the wider agenda relevant to their day to day work is essential leadership work.
  • Developing leaders who have the competence and character necessary to lead the web of complex institutions that have become so vital to the health of modern societies is essential.

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