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.


Image from Bryn Arau Duon - a managed forest in Wales - here the planning horizon is well beyond ten years at a time...
Innovation alone won’t work here.

The executive director of Nesta sets out in a recent article what she thinks are the factors that will make voluntary organisations thrive in the coming ten years: 

“What makes charities more likely to thrive? Which charities will do well? Like in any sector, it is the organisations that best adapt to change and innovate in a deliberate way that will prosper.” – Helen Goulden, ED at Nesta.

She specifically suggests that key areas of innovation will be around Skills Exchanges and Crowdfunding (Nesta having thrown a significant amount of cash and resource at some initiatives across those two fields already) – I agree based on the work I did with colleagues and councillors during my time at the RSA – and will continue to do my bit advance both.

However, I’d argue that the most important predictor is in a single word in the quoted paragraph: deliberate.

The voluntary (and corporate sector) is awash with change and innovation – it is those who find ways to do it in a deliberate way that stand out from the crowd. That’s what I am learning from my research – and there’s of course a fair amount of third-party data to back it up (Kotter et al.). Linked to this, I’m pleased to see that Nesta is also continuing to put resource into The Alliance for Useful Evidence.

Five words from each participant going through a deliberate and deliberative session exploring strategy options
Feedback from participants going through a deliberate and deliberative session exploring strategy options.

So if you want your organisation to stick around for another ten years, focus less on the proverbial shiny objects: innovation and change as the talking points. Instead – start doing things in a deliberate manner – from which change and innovation are likely byproducts.

Those that have good governance, and within that, a clear structure for risk taking (and evaluation) will prevail. A sense of urgency for any change is critical, but it can’t do the job alone.

One place to start is with your board – making sure that you have an aligned group setting the direction, and an appropriate structure to make it reality. If you need help with that, get in touch.

Michael Ambjorn is founder of // Align Your Org – follow @michaelambjorn for more of the above. You can also join the conversation: #ALIGN.

P.S. For those overseas and perhaps unfamiliar with Nesta – it is now a well-heeled independent charity but started its life as the National Endowment for Science Technology and the Arts.

P.P.S. define: deliberate /via Google



1. done consciously and intentionally.
“a deliberate attempt to provoke conflict”
synonyms: intentionalcalculatedconscious, done on purpose, intended,planned, meant, considered, studiedknowingwilfulwanton,purposefulpurposive, premeditated, pre-planned, thought out in advance, prearranged, preconceived, predetermined; More
2. careful and unhurried.
“a conscientious and deliberate worker”
synonyms: carefulcautiousunhurriedmeasuredregularevensteady; More



1. engage in long and careful consideration.
“she deliberated over the menu”