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Our next webinar

‘Change is the only constant’

So asserted Heraclitus a couple of millennia ago – and it holds true today. Yet, some studies suggest that as many as 70% of change programmes fail.

What does it take to align people behind change?

We’re here to help improve your chances by aligning people, resources and effort using accessible tools and techniques. Through three practical case studies we’ll show how leaders in organisations large and small have created the conditions for people to align behind change.

We’ll walk through proven methodologies and also take your burning questions.

Register now.

What does it take for people to align behind change?

This is the question that brought together 69 facilitation, communications and change management professionals over two one-hour twitter chats last October during International Facilitation Week – and Martin Gilbraith and I are now doing a follow-up for 2016 in the form of a webinar.

During the session we will:

  • invite you to share some of your own experience and insights on what can be done to help people to align together to make change happen.
  • share six top tips and tools that were shared during the twitter chats, and how the 4-level ‘ORID’ model of ICA’s ToP Focused Conversation method was applied to structure the process.
  • share examples of practical application including how over 1,000 IABC leaders were engaged, aligned and activated to extend the organisation’s reach and deepen its impact.

A particular aim for the session, as for the twitter chats, is to bring together facilitation, communications and change professionals, and all those with an interest in these fields, to connect with and learn from each.

You will also be invited to share ideas for topics for a pair of twitter chats during International Facilitation Week 2016, October 17-23. Feel free to tweet with the hashtag #FacWeekChat!

Register now on Eventbrite for the session on 17 October 2016.

An effective method to #alignyourorg

“How can I have more purposeful & productive conversations, bring out the wisdom of a group, encourage feedback between people, and reach shared awareness in meetings? How can I generate and weave together a diverse range of ideas, develop creative solutions and build a group consensus?”

Here’s our answer – skill up on your group facilitation. Our methods of choice here at Align come from the Technology of Participation.

Here’s a glimpse of what that training like that looks like in practice:

Learn with Align Your Org advisory board member Martin Gilbraith – book the upcoming course in Brussels:

The ToP Group Facilitation Methods course provides a structured introduction to the ‘Technology of Participation‘ Focused Conversation and Consensus Workshop methods, which form the foundations of ToP Action PlanningToP Participatory Strategic Planning and other applications.

Now see some award-winning practitioners in action:

2012 08 08 Marcos Saboya and Gualter Pupo book maze @ RFH - picture by @michaelambjorn

Top reads for board members: daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly

A round-up of materials that can help you with your alignment work – this issue is focused on Alignment for the Boards but many of these insights apply across other areas of collaborative work.


If you’re want realtime updates, then here are some useful and relevant organisations and hashtags active on Twitter:

@EGBoard | @WOBUK | @tcbcorpgov | @SpencerStuart | @ClarksonCentre | @AICDirectors
#board | #governance | #corpgov | #corporategovernance

BoardSource has a daily newsletter called SmartBrief – very North America (and non-profit) focused, but worth a quick scan if you’re a newsletter junkie looking for a daily dose in your inbox.


Women on Boards in the UK have newsletter worth a browse – it includes vacancies. Got a good weekly newsletter to add here? Let us know @alignyourorg.


HBR's IdeaCast

The Spark is a worthwhile monthly newsletter round-up on governance from BoardSource, champions of the Stand for Your Mission campaign and more.

In hard-copy and on the web you’ll find Harvard Business Review. Topics of course go well beyond the board, but it is a useful way of keeping a finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the world of leadership and management. Personally I tend to take the shortcut as I cycle: I listen to their regular IdeaCast (should also be easy to find on iTunes etc).

Back in the governance specific arena there’s also Board Forward, collated by an association management firm.


Stanford Social Innovation Review

The Stanford Social Innovation Review also known as SSIR – is a worthwhile read.


Also, Boards – a quarterly publication from the Governance Centre of Excellence, a Canadian outfit, is worth a scan.

It comes out of a programme of the Ontario Hospital Association, yet many of their articles have application well beyond healthcare. Topics include:

If you’re looking for more regular updates, why not follow them on Twitter – and also check out some of their great tools and templates.


What’s missing from the above?

What are you reading to #alignyourorg?

Michael Ambjorn is Founder @alignyourorg | Chair @IABC – and this week you can find him in LA at #IABCLI.

A study in simplicity with takeaways for any organisation that involves people

Book Cover: Organizational Innovation by Integrating Simplification: Learning from Buurtzorg Nederland (Management for Professionals) Hardcover – by Sharda S. Nandram (Author)A brief book review:

If you’re involved with any kind of complex organisation – and quite possibly complicated ones – you’ll find something to take away from this book.

What do I mean by complex/complicated? Any effort that draws on more than a few dozen people trying to achieve an overarching goal often has bureaucratic elements that override effective delivery in the interest of efficiency. In the complex organisation it can be a blocker, in a complicated one it can hold back delivery of the intended outcome altogether. Basically, the work put in is not aligned with the vision of what should come out of it.

This comprehensive case study of a Dutch care organisation (Buurtzorg) delves into how they managed to create self-managing teams, encourage on-going problem solving through a clearly articulated ‘intranpreneural’ model, and ultimately deliver better, cheaper and more reliable care – and I’d venture that many of these approaches are transferable to other fields.

The book also has a useful section on the potential limitations of the overall organisational model which is refreshing.

It is priced as an academic title – and laid out as such which makes for slightly less accessible reading. Nevertheless, worth a run through. You may also want to check out the talk that the founder of Buurtzoorg, Jos de Blok, gave when he accepted the 2014 RSA Albert Medal, (incidentally how I first came across this work). Enjoy.

Michael Ambjorn is Founder@alignyourorg |Vice Chair @IABC | Director-at-Large @NearDesk

P.S. Want to more reviews (or simply want to vote this one up or down) – go here.

2015 #IABCLI Hashtag Reference Card handheld back

Your ABC Checklist for Conference Success

2015 #IABCLI Hashtag Reference Card handheld back

Next week I’m heading to a leadership conference and I thought I’d share my basic high-level pre-attendance checklist in case it is useful to anybody else:

A is for Align

Take a moment to clarify what success looks like.

Think of it like a countdown:

  • 3 for the organisers
  • 2 for the people you’re representing
  • 1 for you

Confused? Read why Venn anyway.

B is for Briefed

You only get out what you put it. Arriving well informed tends to help. Here’s apractical example.

C is for Connect

Tap into the community.

Most likely people have already started the conference well before it kicks off – say, via Twitter. Check out the hashtag for the conference and get stuck in.

D is for Develop

Conferences are all about developing what you’ve got into something more. A great way to do that is through sharing your insights and learning (hint, refer to C above).

E is for Engage

Engaging without a purpose is pointless. Right?

Be sure to follow through: say thanks to the organisers (they’ll appreciate it), as well as any speakers you found inspiring. Also, connect to relevant people you met via LinkedIn and otherwise follow up on any actions you agreed and promises you made.

In conclusion:

A for Align
B for Briefed
C for Connect
D for Develop
E for Engage

What does your checklist look like?

Michael Ambjorn is Founder@alignyourorg |Vice Chair @IABC | Director-at-Large @NearDesk – and next week you can find him at #IABCLI.

P.S. Hat tip to Jane Mitchell for the 3-2-1 thought – and Sharon Hunter for always constructive copy-edit assistance.

What’s Your Endgame? The 1% conundrum for the non-profit sector

1.2% of UK charities turn over 68.9% of the cash cycling through the sector. So never mind Oxfam’s predictions for individuals – it is already true for the sector that often says it is out to change the world for the better. Are they doing enough though?

A recent Stanford Social Innovation Review webinar grappled with the way organisations think about scaling (specifically to achieve wide-ranging and lasting change) – the authors, Alice Gugelev & Andrew Stern, focus on non-profits, but the thinking is useful for any organisation trying to change the world.

Having an end in mind is essential for aligning your board – and other stakeholders – yet, many organisations omit this from their planning.

One example cited is the formation of new charities – and whilst the authors focus on North America, it is relevant elsewhere too. Quoted in The Independent, Sam Younger (recent Chief Executive of the UK’s Charity Commission) sets this out in stark numbers:

In the 2013/14 financial year, the Charity Commission received 6,661 applications for new charities in England and Wales, a 16 per cent rise on the previous year. “There are more people coming forward to establish charities than is really desirable, in the sense that I think some of those people might operate better not by establishing a new charity but by collaborating with, working with and associating with existing charities,” Mr Younger said.

Let’s connect that to the bigger picture for the UK:

Charity Register as of 30 September 2014

Annual income bracket Number of charities % Annual income £bn %
£0 to £10,000 67,972 41.4 0.227 0.4
£10,001 to £100,000 55,207 33.6 1.945 3.0
£100,001 to £500,000 20,940 12.8 4.618 7.2
£500,001 to £5,000,000 8,358 5.1 12.580 19.6
£5,000,000 plus 1,990 1.2 44.680 69.8
SUB-TOTAL 154,467 94.1 64.050 100.00
Not yet known 9,630 5.9 0.000 0.0
TOTAL 164,097 100.0 64.050 100.0

Do you serve on the board of one of the start-up non-profits mentioned above? Or perhaps on one of the minority large-scale players (only 1.2% of UK charities turn over more than £5m). Either way, you owe it to yourself and those you serve to seek clarity.

And let’s be direct: it is perfectly valid for a small charity to serve a niche need and never seek to scale. Just be clear about it.

My main concern is in fact the 1.2% who sit on 69.8% of the income. Especially if we’re to take the figures in this table as transferable to settings beyond North America (heckles welcome):

The Stages of Organisational Growth and Social Capital Chasm
Figure by Alice Gugelev & Andrew Stern from What’s Your Endgame? – Winter 2015 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review

What to do?

With apologies to Voltaire: ‘with great resources come great responsibility’ – so whether a charity turning over just a few thousand, or one of the 1%ers:

  1. See the top five take-aways from the webinar in the Tweets below (RT as relevant).
  2. Look at the Stanford Social Innovation Review brief survey (in the last embedded tweet).
  3. Review “Plotting an Endgame” in the last visual and ask the “What is our Endgame?” strategic question at your next board meeting.

The six options laid out by the authors may help – and don’t forget to think through the resource implications.

Need help aligning your thinking on this issue for your organisation? Get in touch.

Michael Ambjorn is founder of @alignyourorg. You can follow him @michaelambjorn

Full SSIR article: What’s Your Endgame

Plotting an Endgame: Six Options - Winter 2015 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review
Figure by Alice Gugelev & Andrew Stern from What’s Your Endgame? – Winter 2015 issue of the Stanford Social Innovation Review

‘Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing’

VMA Group's UK/SA Communicator's Network banner… so said Oscar Wilde … and I’d add it to it that you can’t get solid experience without engagement – and that was the topic I was asked to cover at this morning’s South Africa / UK Communicator’s Breakfast, hosted by Lisa Wannell at the VMA Group HQ in London’s leafy Bedford Square.

Specifically, I shared insights from the recent #IABCafrica14 conference in Cape Town. The attendees at the VMA session were from a range of corporates; agencies; freelancers – and also a senior communicator with experience of the workings of the South African government.

To suit the time of day I was asked to keep my brief talk easy-going and accessible – which I hope you’ll find is what follows, set out in an A-Z format (of sorts).

South Africa is a unique environment, yet good practice knows no borders if you adjust for context – there’s a lot to learn and plenty to get on with!

Here’s what I took away on how to engage on the original continent:

  • Global LinkedIn statsS – is for Social – and it is still growing – for example, 3m people are now on LinkedIn (vs. 17m for the UK) [for context, compare population counts of 52m vs 64m ].
    • Tip: if you’re looking to operate in South Africa, get ahead of the curve and be sure to have a social presence. The LinkedIn Executive Playbook may come in handy if you want to lead from the front.
  • U – is for Underground – who knew De Beers have coal mines too? (To be fair, they have a point: it is all carbon – some of it is just more dense).
    • Tip: more to the point, there are some real good practice gems out there to be picked up – not to mention an opportunity for yours to be recognised: http://gq.iabc.com/

Tortoise on the loose #IABCafrica14

  • A – is for Alignment – something that is easier to arrive at if you use the IABC Global Standard: Ethics, Consistency, Context, Analysis, Strategy, Engage…
  • F – is for Friendly – where else do you get such a warm welcome?!
    • Tip: read why venn anyway? – and then mark your calendar for #IABCafrica15 coming up in Johannesburg in 2015! On the road a lot? Then these two may also be of interest: #Eurocomm (London, April ’15), #IABC15 (San Francisco, June ’15). Last but not least, if you want to attend a future UK/SA Breakfast, reach out to Lisa Wannell.
  • R – is for Recognition – South Africa punches well above its weight in terms of Gold Quills.
    • Tip: who doesn’t want to be introduced as ‘the award winning…’ – so to be fair, the bar is high, but that never puts off the best: gq.iabc.com
  • I – is for International – South Africa really is at the global forefront on thinking about corporate governance, specifically through the ongoing work to implement the recommendations from the King III report.
    • Tip: want to boost your understanding of governance and help lead an organisation at the highest strategic level? Learn how, here.
  • C – is for Connectivity – 3G/4G/WiFi can at times be a challenge in South Africa. It is most definitively not evenly distributed – but then again, neither is it in the UK. It is easy to be misled by the relative bubble that is London.
  • A – is for Action… ask yourself: are you doing what you love?
    • YES: great! Glad to hear it. Now is the perfect time to update your CV. Build your network before you need it. Need help? Work with your recruiter – and get out there and share the good practice you’ve built up (links galore above!).
    • Maybe: that’s entirely normal – build your network before you need it. Get a perspective from a recruiter – and get out there and network. There are a panoply of links above to get you started…
    • I’m starting my own… brilliant – and good luck. This might come in handy.

Either way, be sure to let me know how you get on. If you think somebody else could benefit from the above, please do share it.

Michael Ambjorn is founder of // Align Your Org – and Vice Chair @IABC. You can follow him @michaelambjorn