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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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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 ...

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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 ...

Emerging faster and stronger – building blocks of the “new normal” operating model

In our first blog post, we outlined how organizations can leverage six distinct operating model building blocks to build speed, flexibility, and resilience in its ways of working for the long term – shifting from a “survival minimum” mode during the heat of the pandemic to a sustainable “strategic optimum.” In this blog post, we will outline how organizations are beginning to embed these building blocks while returning to regular business post COVID-19. We have ...

How organizations can build healthy employee habits

The COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated many forces already in play over the last decade. One of the most significant shifts being the move to remote and distributed work. In this context, a frequent question we hear from leaders is: How do we promote healthy and performance-driving habits across our front-line teams, many of whom are more decentralized than ever before? The good news is that there is no better time to build habits than during times of rapid change. Habits are automatic behaviors ...

Emerging faster and stronger – organizing to win the upturn

Despite the salient pain-points brought about by our current crisis, many organizations – in their shift to “survival minimum” mode in recent weeks – have experienced significant leaps in speed, flexibility, and resilience in their ways of working. One grocery retailer, for example, launched a curbside pick-up and delivery business in two days – a far cry from its legacy plan of 18-months. Upon reflection, the group’s CEO had a bold and challenging ...

Organizing for the Future: A focus on three outcomes

In a recent post, we framed the moment we are living in as a first true information revolution – one driven by more connection, lower transaction costs, unprecedented automation, and demographic shifts. This paradigm shift radically changes the business agenda for the winners of the previous industrial revolutions. Take car manufacturers, for example: in the past five years, their agenda has gone from “Where should we locate plants?” to “How do we build electric ...

Organizing for the Future: Why now?

In business today, we’re seeing a story unfold before our eyes, one that has happened before but not in our lifetime. When technologies converge, industries transform, and work is remade. Since the 18th century, at least three industrial revolutions have occurred. Organizations evolved—or closed. Predictability became king. Scale mattered. For the innovators, productivity soared. The fundamental challenge now is that even the most successful companies today are designed to operate by ...

How to communicate effectively in times of uncertainty

During a crisis, an employee’s most trusted source of information is often their employer. For this reason, a leader’s words and actions can have a major impact on the well-being of those they manage; they can help keep people safe, help them adjust and cope emotionally and help them put their experience into context and draw meaning from it. But crises also present leaders with infinitely complicated challenges and no easy answers. Tough trade-offs abound, and with them, tough ...