Organizational Intelligence, the way forward

Change is upon us, constantly beating us to almost a pulp. Like it or not, the wee micro-organism has left the world agape, businesses struggling, employees concerned for their survival, students lost for direction and for some of us, in absolute awe. In “awe” that something so small has had such dire ramifications. All facets of our life has been impacted in some form or other.
We now hear of organizational transformational journeys being conducted, disruptive leadership principles being enunciated, new competency models being reimagined, employee engagement models being reworked and the whole digital experience being implemented, all in the name of current survivability and future sustainability.

Let’s bring the discussion back to us as leaders of enterprises, managers of businesses and people alike, and us as individuals. The one thing that is very clear about this is that, whilst we have absolutely no control on the environment around us, but we do have full control of how we feel, think, behave and act given any situation. That in itself is a great starting point.

It takes much concerted effort to climb the corporate ladder of success. There is enough research to illustrate that whilst personal traits and technical competences are key, as is the area of IQ, EQ has risen over the past 2 decades or so to play a role in how we not only understand others, but also effectively manage them accordingly. Despite this, why do leaders still “fail”? Why do change efforts, transformation journeys and organizational wide digital roll outs fail?

More often than not, it’s because these Leaders don’t know how best to garner the support of the eco-system that they are in, to do what they want of it, and more crucially, in the way they want it to be done. Could it be that they simply lack social / organizational intelligence or Organization Quotient (OQ)?

In today’s very uncertain and challenging environment, and that’s putting it mildly, the crucial need to have everyone on the proverbial boat, each rowing in concert with each other, at the same tempo, in the same direction is fundamental to success. And to this end, the need for OQ becomes even more relevant.

What is OQ? It’s an embodiment of several dimensions*. In this paper, we will focus on 3 of these dimensions, namely:

1) Ensuring that critical messages are consistently reinforcing the strategy and all other messages purposefully are down-played. In this way, OQ leaders focus on getting across what’s truly important vs talking about everything and anything. Afterall, the strategies are operationalised by those below. And if the employees at all levels are unclear of what’s truly important for the “fight” that they are in as an organization, how in the world can they be asked to step into the ring, don the boxing gloves and give it all they have got? Simple, clear, almost-in-your-face messaging and selectively aligned to the strategy is the way forward.

2) Action Based Strategy vs Consensus Building to drive home the strategic goals. All too often, leaders get sucked into the whirlpool of persuading others of the need to change. Whilst this works well for the mid-level manager, at top-of-house however, this approach may well be counter-productive. Instead, a strategy of stealth, coupled with conscious and planful interventions to bring people along the journey, demonstrating clearly defined achievements and successes may well be a better approach. In this way the formal, big song-and-dance declaration of the way forward is replaced by an OQ leader applying a more underlying, considered, targeted perspective with a “show and tell” approach.

3) And finally, we have the matter of the “trust deficit” that most organizations are experiencing. By and large, the trust bank in most organizations have been in a constant state of erosion. Not only do employees not fully believe what the leaders are saying but critically, there seems to be a perspective of vested personal interest playing out. This has negative ramifications when it comes to leaders leading the charge on transformation journeys. A common question asked by the employee is, “no matter what the leader says, will I still have a job once the transformation is completed? Or will I be replaced by a technology-based robot?” and yet another common statement made is “… I just don’t believe what he is saying!”

This trust deficit will and has undoubtedly created havoc in the organization. So how can OQ leaders effectively respond to this? The need to fully understand who in the organization has the “trust”, has the “ears” and importantly, has the “voice” of her / his peers, is critical. The area of Organizational Network Analytics (ONA) has started to play a critical role, more so today then ever before. Done well, an ONA exercise will provide for an almost clinical perspective, coupled with some factual “magic” on how best to move people into the desired direction.

Communication flow, frequency of individuals being asked for their perspectives and opinions on key matters, organizational wide opinion movers and shakers now become pivotal to the success of such change / transformation journeys. Identifying the organization’s trusted individuals and mapping them to particular formal or informal roles now becomes success factors for consideration by effective OQ leaders as they execute their action oriented strategies.

The socio-political and economic impact created by the CoVid-19 has had and will continue to have dire consequences to the management of the family unit, the organization, the society and the Nation at large. Effectively managing the changes using a social intelligence lens is now going to be a key differentiator to future success. How much of an OQ leader are you?

By Taranjeet Singh, CEO of Quantum Steppe Advisory. Taranjeet has returned to Malaysia after living and working in Central Asia for the past several years. He can be contacted at

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Additional Readings

*”Good Leadership Hinges on Organization Intelligence”, George Yip & Nelson Phillips, HBR June 15, 2020