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McKinsey Organization Blog

Short and snackable insights on talent management, organizational design, agility, culture, change management, HR analytics and technology, leadership, and merger management from our experienced partners at the forefront of today’s trends.

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Nudge, don’t nag

In recent years, nudging has been hailed as the latest trend in HR and a novel, new scientific management approach. And for good reason: using nudges has improved everything from customer retention and employee safety to organizational commitment and innovation. When nudges are executed with care, they have remarkable results. However, in many cases there is a misconception about what a nudge actually is – organizations often launch initiatives that either miss the mark or are just ...

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McKinsey Organization Blog: 100 posts and counting

When we launched the McKinsey Organization Blog two years ago, our goal was to share concise insights from our experienced partners at the forefront of today’s organizational trends. To date, we have published over 100 blog posts aimed to address leaders’ needs related to the topics of talent management, organizational design, agility, culture, change management, leadership, merger management and more. To mark this milestone, we’re looking back at 10 of the most popular posts ...

Reaching a tipping point in leadership development

Why do some ideas, products, and behaviors take hold and spread like wildfire, while others never catch on? A popular theory on change cites three factors – reaching the right people, a “sticky” message, and a conducive context – to reach a critical mass and tipping point where real change takes hold. Leadership development at scale – where the goal is to sustainably shift the behaviors of an organization across the board – requires a tipping point for new ...

Rethinking the boundaries of your organizational (eco)system

For most organizations, the clear boundaries of who is “in” and who is not are becoming blurred, and what seemed like bright line differences are now becoming like concentric circles, where the types of people and organizations working together to create value vary widely, and system participants exist along a spectrum. Consider some vendors in a value chain ecosystem who - in every other way but being on a company’s payroll - act like employees. Are they part of the ...

Employee motivation in the age of automation and agility

There is a lot written about automation these days and some of it can be daunting. From fear of robots taking over our lives, to automation being a threat to jobs, AI is creating impenetrable skills gaps and employee resistance to change. We have a more optimistic view on the age of automation. First, we believe there will be more than enough work to go around. Our research shows jobs gained and changed by several automation and labor trends will outweigh jobs lost in the 2016-2030 period. ...

Setting the “how” in performance management

It’s no surprise that technology and automation are reshaping how work is done, increasing the need to improve employee engagement, reinforce desired leadership behaviors and understand how to quickly address skill gaps. And performance management is a crucial tool to help executives and managers develop and incentivize the skills and behaviors required to deliver on strategy, while also unlocking engagement, productivity and retention, for long-term business success. Through this, a ...

Aristotle can help young leaders create meaning in difficult moments

A young entrepreneur felt stuck on a Tuesday afternoon: The new version of a product turned out to have some unexpected flaws, one of the co-founders wasn’t reachable abroad, and a potential investor had postponed the decision to invest by another week. In a world that feels more volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous, where the external results of one’s leadership are not always clear, it isn’t always apparent what doing the right thing could mean. And without such a ...

How to develop soft skills

As automation and artificial intelligence dramatically change the nature of work, employees must fine tune the social and emotional abilities machines cannot master. To encourage this behavior, employers must adjust the ways they assess, educate, train and reward their workforce on soft skills such as collaboration, communication and critical thinking. Our previous post demonstrated the value of developing and rewarding soft skills, considering the impact of automation and AI on the workplace of ...

Are hard and soft skills rewarded equally?

With the rise of machine learning and artificial intelligence, businesses across sectors are becoming automated. A McKinsey Global survey found that 80 percent of organizations surveyed have begun a digital transformation in the past five years. Whether a steel mill beginning to monitor operations using AI, or a retail bank shifting a number of operations to its revamped website, the imperative to become a digital organization is ever present. In fact, as many as half of current work activities ...

Mobilize your organization with a powerful change story

Imagine your company has set an ambitious aspiration and conducted an assessment of the organization’s performance—what an enterprise does to deliver improved results for its stakeholders in financial and operational terms—and health—how effectively an organization works together in pursuit of its performance aspirations. So how do you use these insights to mobilize the whole enterprise, from senior management to frontline employees? As the chief human resources officer ...

Stop playing “Whac-a-mole” with behavior change

It’s a fairly typical scenario: An organization is in the midst of a large-scale change. The management invests intensive time and resources to develop protocols and programs to support their new direction. In the beginning, these efforts work; KPIs may even increase. But before long, old behaviors begin to pop up and progress toward the new direction slows down. In this way, driving behavioral change can be like a game of “Whac-a-mole” in an arcade. You implement programs that ...

Do your employees struggle with these three common roadblocks?

A global technology company faced a common challenge: How do we get our newly hired sales-reps up to speed more quickly? Leadership had tried seemingly everything – including recently rolling out a global sales playbook – so why were first-year outcomes still so inconsistent? When the organization dug into the data, they couldn’t find one single answer. Instead, they found three. One group of employees, it turned out, was highly motivated, but took longer to acquire skills and ...

Organizations do not change. People change!

Albert Einstein once famously remarked, “Today’s problems cannot be solved with the same level of thinking that created them.” Consider the example of a Latin American consumer goods manufacturer under pressure to change its performance after not having performed well for several quarters. Due to urgency, the chief transformation officer went off to set more stretched targets and created a weekly governance to review performance initiatives with more rigor. Yes, people worked ...

Back to the not-so-basics of managing change

A medical device company undertook a large transformation that included integrating several business units to create one unified organization and culture. This was no small feat; at any given moment, the team, like many teams, had 100 or so projects running to execute the integration. Managing change in these situations often feels extremely difficult, if not impossible. With thousands of employees and multiple rounds of simultaneous changes, how can top teams ensure everyone is adopting the new ...

The new roles of leaders in 21st century organizations

As we’ve discussed extensively, agile organizations operate in fundamentally different ways to traditional organizations (see our previous articles here and here). But what is the role of the leader in this new open, empowered organization? The roles of leaders in traditional organizations In traditional organizations, the focus of leaders is to maximize value for shareholders. To do this, they play the roles of planner (developing strategy and translating it into a plan); director ...