New Course – Thinking Like a CEO

systemic thinking about your business

Thinking Like a CEO

I want to let you know I that just launched a new course entitled “Thinking Like a CEO.” The course is for any of you who lead others or even work for a company or organization (including volunteer organization) and want to better understand and even speak about your organization in a smarter, more enlightened way. The course is designed around the “Transformation Model,” which my business partner, Preston Pond, and I developed a number of years ago to help people assess and improve the effectiveness of their organizations.

As you can see from the diagram, there are seven core elements of the model. These seven variables (along with leadership in the middle) form a “big picture” view of an organization and ultimately determine its success.  For some 25 years, our purpose at The Center for Organizational Design was to help leaders create high performing organizations by finding the right relationship and balance between each of these variables. In fact, I believe that the best leaders (and members) understand their organizations from a holistic and systems point of view, which we offer through the Transformation Model.

My purpose, in this post, is to do an overview of the elements of the transformation model. And, if you are interested, I’m offering you a significant discount on my new course which will teach you to assess your organization using the seven elements of the model. Click here to get it for the low price of $9.99 (good until 3:30 PM MST on Tuesday, December 6th).

Overview of the Transformation Model


Organizations, like all living systems, can survive only to the extent that they maintain harmony with their external environment. This includes being sensitive to the evolving needs and perceptions of customers, understanding changes occurring in technologies, knowing your competition and understanding the legal, social and political climates.  Most organizations eventually die because they fail to maintain a responsive attitude towards their environment.


There are two parts to strategy.  Business strategy is a set of conscious decisions about how the organization will add value to customers and distinguish itself from its competitors. It also includes performance targets and strategy for growth. A well-developed business strategy tells the organization where it is going and guides it like a ship’s rudder in a stormy sea.  The second part of strategy is core ideology. This is the “being” or character of the organization. It has to do with who we are and not just what we do.  It includes the mission, vision of the future, values and guiding principles. A clear ideology helps transform a company or office from a normal work place to one that inspires people and brings out their best.

 Core Process

This is the flow of work through the organization.  It is the sequence of events or steps necessary to get a product out the door or deliver a service. This also includes the technology and resources (equipment, software, space and materials) required to produce a deliverable. Core business processes are, or should be, the focal point around which all other business unit activity is organized. Understanding, streamlining and properly supporting core business processes is the central job of any organization.


Another key element of the Transformation Model is Structure, which I define as how people are organized around core processes. Structure moves beyond box charts to understanding the boundaries, roles, responsibilities and reporting relationships among people. It is a sort of template that determines not only relationships but coordination of tasks and allocation of resources around business processes. The proper question about structure is not whether it is the right one, but whether it fits with the rest of the organization (core process, strategy) and helps rather than hinders performance.


Systems are the inter-related sets of tasks or activities that help organize and coordinate work as well as develop employees. Examples include recruiting and selection, training and development, how people are promoted, communication/ information sharing, decision making, how people are rewarded, planning/ goal setting, personnel policies and procedures, performance feedback, etc.  Systems are usually standardized and cut across the whole organization.  They are often “owned” by management or special support functions.  The most effective systems are often the simplest.


Culture is how the organization really operates. It consists of worker attitudes and habits and management practices that make up the distinctive “personality” of the organization.  It is like the air that permeates everything and is both cause and effect of organization behavior.  Culture mirrors the true philosophy and values that the organization actually practices.  As such, it is a measure of how well an organization has translated its philosophy (core ideology) into practice.


What is the organization’s current performance?  Results define the success or health of an organization and therefore may be thought of as the starting point for understanding how well the organization is functioning.  Results indicate where the organization is strong and what it needs to keep doing, as well as where it is weak and what it needs to change.  Everything is tied to results.  Not being clear about current or future results is like being lost at sea; even knowing where you want to go, you don’t know how to get there.


I put leadership in the middle of the model because leaders are responsible for the performance of all aspects of the model. Understanding and managing all of the various elements of the Transformation Model is the work of an organization’s top leaders. Leaders drive success. They set goals and monitor results, scan the external environment, define vision and strategy, design (consciously or by default) the processes, structure and systems of the organization, develop people and build culture. Successful leaders are not just caught up in the day-to-day work of an organization but are responsible for creating and managing each of the seven elements of the model.

Assess Your Business or Organization

The purpose of my new course is to guide you through an assessment of your organization. I offer a short video overview of each element of the model and then offer you a handout and number of diagnostic questions to assess how this element of the model is performing in your organization. And then we take a step back and look for the common themes and patterns from your assessment, and even identify opportunities for making improvements.

So, if interested, click here, to get more information or enroll in the program. I’d love to have you join me in my desire to design smarter, more effective organizations.

And remember that my price of $9.99 is only good through Tuesday, December 6th, 2022.


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