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Macquarie University

Organisational design: Know your organisation

Macquarie University via Coursera


How do you lead your organisation when today’s work environment is so competitive and complex? When you become responsible for leading an organisation, your most important leadership challenge will be enabling your organisation to deliver on its strategy while ensuring it remains sufficiently agile. This course will prepare you to tackle this challenge. You will examine what organisational culture is, the primary organisational structures, and what we mean by ‘systems’, before building on your foundational knowledge and taking a more strategic perspective. The structured learning activities that complement this course (video lectures, quizzes, discussion prompts and written assessments) will not only prepare you to take your organisation forward in a more strategic direction, but to make better decisions along the way.


  • Organisational alignment
    • Welcome to your first week of the Know your organisation course. Have you ever wondered what it means to be more strategic as a leader? What differentiates a leader from a strategic leader? Of course, this label can mean all sorts of things; some people seem to have started using it simply because it sounds good! But when it comes to leading an organisation, being "strategic" does have a specific meaning. It is about ensuring that your organisation is fully focused on executing its business strategy. What does this involve exactly? How do you make sure that your organisation can deliver on the business strategy? This week you learn to understand the organisation as consisting of a number of elements: people, structure, culture, and systems. Each of these elements will be covered in depth in weeks 2-5 of the course. In this first week, you will take a broader perspective across them as a basis for understanding the importance of aligning them in such a way that they can enable the execution of the business strategy. This focus on alignment brings us to the central concept for this week: key capabilities. This week you will learn what key capabilities are, why they are so important for strategically focusing your organisation, and how you can identify them. If you learn to master the ability to clearly define a set of key capabilities for any given strategy, and are able to align your organisation to these, you will become a truly effective leader, worthy of the term "strategic".
  • Organisational culture
    • What do you think is the most challenging aspect of making sure that your organisation can deliver on its business strategy? Many senior executives would definitely say: "organisational culture". When your organisational culture works to support your business strategy it gives you a huge advantage; when it doesn't it can spell disaster. So what is "organisational culture" exactly and what is so challenging about it? And how do you know if your culture is aligned with your strategy? These are some of the key questions that you will grapple with this week. You will learn to apply a powerful diagnostic tool for identifying your predominant culture type, and for assessing whether you should try to change it or not. You will also learn a number of important change levers that you can influence if you do decide culture change is needed. Be careful though! The road of culture change can be treacherous. This week you will learn how to navigate it better.
  • Organisational structure
    • What would you do first if you wanted to fundamentally change the direction of your organisation? Well, if you are like most leaders, you would definitely consider changing the structure of the organisation. But when you dig a bit deeper into this topic, you will quickly discover that there are a huge number of structural options to choose from. So how do you know which option is best? What are the main types of organisational structure, and what are their advantages and disadvantages? How do you make sure that your organisation structure enables your business strategy, instead of making strategy execution more difficult? These are the key questions that you will engage this week. You will learn about the key trade-offs involved in organisational structure decisions, and how to balance these trade-offs in relation to your business strategy. And you will learn to apply a powerful 4-step process for developing an effective organisational structure for your organisation. Even if you are not in a position yet to directly influence the structure of your organisation, wouldn't it be great to at least know what the structure of your organisation should be, theoretically speaking? This week is focused on just that.
  • Organisational control systems
    • What are systems for exactly? This can be quite a tricky question because it obviously depends on the particular system we are talking about. Yet, from a management perspective there is a straightforward general answer to this question: systems are there to control performance and risk. This week you will learn what this means exactly, and what the most important implications are for how you design your systems around your business strategy. You will learn to understand systems more broadly than just IT systems, and how to deploy them effectively to manage and control performance and risk. An important part of this involves deciding on the key indicators that you want to track, and how you want to report information that is strategically relevant. Too many business leaders drown in numbers to the point where they can't see the wood from the trees. This week is focused on helping you design systems that can keep you focused on seeing the wood instead of the trees.
  • Strategic human resource management (HRM)
    • Is it possible to manage your employees "strategically"? What does that mean, and what would it look like? The key principles of Human Resource Management (HRM) have been around since at least the 1950s. However, since the turn of the 21st century we have seen a distinct move towards making HRM more "strategic". Amongst many other things, this has involved making the Human Resource (HR) function more pro-active, and highlighted its importance for the strategic success of companies. Yet, there is also another way of approaching HRM more strategically: determining what roles are strategically most important, and tailoring your HR practices accordingly. It is this specific approach to strategic HRM that will be the focus of this week. You will learn to question common practices in HRM from a strategic perspective, and develop alternatives to them that better support the business strategy of your organisation. You will also learn to apply a key conceptual framework for strategically differentiating your HRM approach. So this week is all about learning how to align your people practices with your business strategy. This will involve some tough, and possibly controversial choices, which should provide plenty of opportunity for some great discussions.
  • From organisational alignment diagnosis to solutions
    • This final week of the course is all about bringing everything you have learnt over the past five weeks together in one powerful framework. This framework will help you move from problem diagnosis to solutions development, and will help you prioritise the key issues that your organisation should be focused on. You will revisit the central topics of this course – key capabilities, structure, culture, people, and systems – as a basis for deciding where the biggest sources of misalignment are in relation to your business strategy. And after deciding on your most critical issues you, will use the key frameworks in the course to develop a set of recommendations that could address these issues. You will then be encouraged to think through the risks associated with your key recommendations and develop risk mitigation strategies. All of this will culminate in a professional report with your organisational recommendations. Some tips on how to approach such a report will also be covered. When you have mastered the skill of determining what the most critical organisational issues that your business should focus on, you will be in a much better position to lead organisations effectively and strategically.

Taught by

Jaco Lok


4.9 rating at Coursera based on 1472 ratings

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