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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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Unleashing sustainable speed in a post-COVID world: Reimagine structure

In the first blog post in this series, we discussed how many organizations were forced to accelerate numerous approaches to business (serving customers, working with vendors, collaborating with colleagues) due to the eruption of the coronavirus pandemic. While many companies may have been uncomfortable with having to stretch extensively in such a short period of time, the results indicate that this faster, more agile way of working should become the new normal. Based on numerous case ...

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Reimagine decision making to improve speed and quality

In our pre-pandemic research, we discussed three characteristics that lead to better, faster decision making: high-quality debate, well-understood processes and a culture of empowerment. Our research also identified three facilitating actions: making decisions at the right level, aligning decisions with corporate strategy and committing to execution. Then, during the pandemic, we saw organizations making decisions faster than ever. As the world progresses into the next normal, companies must ...

Unleashing sustainable speed in a post-COVID world: Rethink ways of working

The pandemic has forced many businesses to navigate crisis conditions in new and unprecedented ways. When COVID-19 erupted, many companies realized that business-as-usual approaches to serving customers, working with suppliers and collaborating with colleagues—or just getting anything done—would no longer work. They were forced to increase the speed at which they did everything, from decision-making and productivity to utilizing technology in new ways to accelerating innovation. The ...

Communicating with employees during re-entry

As organizations plan for re-entry and recovery amid the COVID-19 pandemic, leaders have an opportunity to engage and strengthen overall connections with employees. Recognizing and addressing the core human emotions of grief, loss, and anxiety in the workplace offer a chance to rebuild organizational health, productivity, and talent retention. Clear and inspiring communication is central to re-entry success. In addition to moving decisively on strategic changes, leaders must help rattled ...

Fitter, flatter, faster: How unstructuring your organization can unlock massive value

The majority of organizations still use a hierarchical model, where each role is carefully documented and cemented through a system of boxes and lines. In this paradigm, accountability gets buried in the depth of complex organizational structures. With businesses and government agencies alike facing unprecedented disruption, having the flexibility and speed to quickly make decisions and get work done has never been more important. Digging out from under the many management layers and antiquated ...

Four considerations for helix success beyond structure (part three)

The helix organization model, which we explored in part one and part two of this blog series, separates people-leadership tasks from day-to-day business leadership, helping organizations strike a better balance by reducing complexity and increasing flexibility, encouraging faster decision-making, and empowering employees to act. In order to make this model a success, changes beyond the structure need to be made. The following recommendations help ensure that an organization is set up ...

Three steps to creating more value through talent

Traditionally, leaders have been encouraged to dynamically reallocate capital to the most pressing and attractive opportunities. This focus remains today, but many companies face a challenge: human capital is now the scarcer of the two main capitals. Companies that manage talent with the same rigor they do financial capital, treating it like the precious resource it is, typically see better results. They reallocate talent to high-value areas and push talent management to the top of their growth ...

Driving organizational and behavior changes during a pandemic

In our previous post, we provided an overview of what companies are doing during the COVID pandemic to stabilize or even improve their organizational health. But one question remains: what can be done to drive these kinds of organization-wide behavior changes during a time of unprecedented change and a shift to remote working? A proven way to achieve mindset and behavior shifts is the “influence model,” a research-based interplay of the four quadrants: understanding and conviction, ...

What does a helix reorganization look like? (part two)

The traditional matrix structure of the past is not doing today’s increasingly-complex organizations justice. We have found that the helix organization model – which splits management tasks differently into two distinct but parallel management tracks beyond classical primary solid and secondary dotted line logic– creates flexibility, can streamline roles and responsibilities, simplify decision-making processes, and empower employees to capitalize on business and personal ...

Thriving during a pandemic: What moves the needle on organizational health

An organization’s health – how an organization aligns around a commons vision and strategy, executes with excellence, and renews itself to sustainably achieve performance aspirations – explains up to 50 percent of performance variation across companies. Healthy organizations outperform their competition at every level, delivering 3x total return to their shareholders. Organizational health is even more critical in times of constant change and extreme uncertainty, when ...

Establish a performance culture as your “secret sauce”

Leaders across industries are adopting new ways of working, particularly in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. In times of volatility, organizations that focus on culture and organizational health accelerate out of crisis faster. By building a performance culture—one with a unique set of practices, rituals, symbols, and experiences to fuel sustained superior performance—leaders can future-proof their organizations. Reinventing an organization requires a solid, shared foundation of ...

Become flexible and speed up with a helix model (part one)

As our business environment becomes more interconnected, we have accepted complexity. We replicate it through convoluted matrix structures, supported by the same management tools that have been around for decades. These hierarchical charts with solid and dotted-line reporting relationships are complicating organizations, becoming slow and inflexible—the opposite of what’s needed nowadays. Additionally, individual employees are finding themselves reporting to multiple ...

Sustainably shifting how an organization leads

Recently we attended a discussion in which a head of learning and development, delegated the task to build leadership capabilities, was now required to show results. However, building new leadership capabilities entails changing and learning new behaviors; few change after simply receiving training. This leader wasn’t set up for success, as the responsibility was not coupled with a broader mandate to tweak other organizational elements. Most people change behavior and learn new ...

Activate purpose to create shared identity

As leaders start organizing for the future, they are beginning to understand that purpose can no longer be relegated to high-level intentions or catchy slogans. The great challenges of our time—such as climate, wealth inequity, and disintegrating trust in institutions—are, in part, a by-product of a winner-takes-all economy. While business and market forces have helped lift many people out of poverty, many have been left behind. Increasingly, businesses are expected to take the lead ...

Three important questions for the future of remote work

According to Gartner, 74% of surveyed CFOs plan to keep part of their workforce permanently remote after the COVID-19 crisis. Both organizations and employees see opportunities and benefits from remote working including flexibility, increased productivity and employee satisfaction. Several companies have already announced plans to shift to a hybrid or completely remote working model after the pandemic. In this post, we explore three important questions to ask that will support success as ...