Work of Fiction is a product of NOBL (pronounced no-bell), an organizational and cultural design agency with teams in LA, NYC, London, and Vancouver.
We help organizations work better together.
One day, the LA team played hooky for an afternoon and went to see Ready Player One. After the movie, we got into a debate about the organizations in the movie. Why a treasure hunt as a succession plan? Was the villain really such a bad boss, and was it such a bad place to work? Isn’t this just Willy Wonka with a VR headset? If so, what happened to the Oompa-Loompas, because literally no one seems to work at Gregarious Games.
In short, we nerded out about the film and our area of expertise. We enjoyed the conversation so much that we decided to record it and turn it into a podcast. Our friends tell us that there aren’t enough of those in the world, by the way. We hope you enjoy it. If you do, tell a friend.
Each episode we shake up who appears on the podcast and who plays emcee, but these are your usual suspects:
When you listen to an episode, you’ll hear us frame the discussion in five domains: environment, purpose, strategies, structures, and systems.
These are the same domains that we use when we map our clients’ organizations. We call this tool our Organizational Charter and it helps us get a quick, holistic view of the organization. Here’s a description of each domain and how we think about it when we work with our clients:
Environment: the conditions around the organization. For clients, we go wide and explore competitors, customers, partners, technological opportunities, cultural trends, and forecasted futures by industry experts. We want to understand the forces exerting pressure on the organization and its leadership.
Purpose: the reason why we choose to work together in response to the Environment. We ask our clients to describe the legacy they want to leave behind, their vision for the company’s future, and how they’ll mark their progress toward that vision. We look for alignment and misalignment from leaders here.
Strategies: the bets we’re currently making to fulfill our Purpose. We ask our clients to define the tradeoffs they’re making to win customers and block competitors. We interrogate those tradeoffs by having leaders explicitly state the assumptions behind those choices (e.g. “We price ourselves at a discount in the market because we hypothesize that there will eventually only be room for one player in our space.”) We look to see that you can draw a straight, rational line from an organization’s Environment to the Strategies they’re following.
Structures: the division of work and resources we need to execute our Strategies. Before we have leaders draw an org chart, we have them draw the most critical processes for the company or department (e.g. how a marketing campaign is created for a new product). We then have them reflect on their Purpose and Strategies to identify possible alternative processes and structures (e.g. if faster speed to market is our strategy, what process barriers can we remove and can we benefit from cross-functional teams?).
Systems: the tools we need to align behavior across our Structures. Here we ask leaders to list the cultural norms, rituals, values and global tools that are most essential to the organization’s health. Here we look to see if the organization is being overly influenced by its systems.
These domains sit like Russian nesting dolls: Purpose follows Environment. Strategies follow Purpose. Structures follow Strategies. Systems follow Structures. Therefore, a change within a higher domain should trigger changes to the domains below it. Too often, teams start at the Structure level, and hold a reorg with the hopes they’ll be more effective. But if you haven’t addressed the Strategy motivating the reorg in the first place, your team will continue to struggle. And in today’s dynamic environment, the organizations that can sense change better and make internal changes faster will outperform their rivals. This model is incredibly powerful, not only in helping us see the organization as a whole but also in testing alignment among leaders of the business.