Return to Office: Just Give Me A Reason

Why should we return to office? The lament reminds me of Pink’s song “Just Give Me A Reason” where she begs: “Just give me a reason, just a little bit’s enough.”  To date, the headlines have instead focused on the reasons for staying home. 

For example, a recent Wall Street Journal article cited the difficulties around getting urban workers to head to the office given increasing crime on public transportation, the cost of commuting and continued worry about Covid. [WSJ, Big Cities Can’t Get Workers Back to the Office, July, 7, 2022.]

Those pushing for return to office have missed the most important reason for gathering in-person: The work itself!  As a life long organizational consultant I have experienced first-hand how compelling it is to bring people together to share experiences and collaborate. We are social animals.  And let’s face it, many of us tire of staring at a screen all day. 

Over the past few months I have witnessed amazing workplace dynamics resulting from face-to-face experiences:

  • A global team that was headed in many different directions aligned, moving together towards their goal.  This required focusing team members on the specific tasks at hand.  The team members shared what help they needed from their peers in order to perform.  This led to dynamic discussions about what the team can realistically provide each other.
  • A support team determined how they can accomplish annual goals via working in new ways.  Team members indicated that they were floundering as they tried to navigate new work challenges on their own from home.  The team members shared best practices. They identified ways to collaborate in order to gain new capabilities and adopt new approaches. 
  • An operations team was able to meet face-to-face for the first time in years.  Many of the team members were new to their roles.  They shared moving life stories and work experiences.  At the conclusion, team members indicated that they had gained newfound energy for their work due to really getting to know one another for the first time

The above breakthroughs did not come quickly.  It was not as easy as simply gathering team members in-person and hoping for positive outcomes. Rather, powerful interactions happened as a result of planned deep engagement.  These carefully designed interactions lasted several days. A number of important factors were at play:

  • In some cases team members needed to be in person in order to have the time and focus for in depth topics which led to understanding of the work at hand and how their roles overlapped.
  • In other instances team members benefited from a great deal of spontaneous back and forth discussion resulting from in-person interaction.   
  • In most cases, the age old challenge of trust played out.  Team members needed to spend time together building up their faith in their peers in order to open up themselves.

The team collaborations described above do not require us to be in the office all the time.  In fact, many teams are carving out chunks of time to gather together each quarter, month and/or week.  This is the new brand of hybrid work.

We need a reason to face the risk, cost and just plain old inconvenience of hauling ourselves to the office. Just give me one reason to return: The people!

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.


Go Ahead and “Enable” Your Clients Given All We Have Been Through!

Given the challenges our clients are facing, we should “enable” them to improve #organizational performance.  Yes, I used the word “enable!” I fully recognize that this term is often times seen as a negative.  As in, I “enabled” my dysfunctional cousins to drink themselves silly.”  Not so cool.

The type of “enabling” I am talking about involves clients who are currently immobilized by the dozens of challenges they have faced over the past two years.  The #pandemic alone has resulted in many of our clients having to take herculean efforts to keep their organizations functioning. Many teams are now transitioning again to #returntooffice which creates additional stressors. [I write about the challenges and triumphs of delivering our work virtually and hybrid in my new book:]

All this adds up to some burned out folks who are not in a good place for launching new #organizationalimprovement efforts. … And yet, we all need to keep getting better! …

Given this back drop, I find myself going the extra step to kick start some performance improvement efforts.  A few examples:

  • Kick Off: I have taken a more active role in getting teams together in order to start an improvement effort.  There are a number of leaders and team members who have #organizationaldevelopment efforts on their docket.  At the same time, they are so swamped with day-to-day people, process and technology challenges that they do not have the bandwidth to get the effort kicked off.  I have found that by doing a bit of work upfront to push the effort into gear, the leaders then quickly follow with action.
  • Project Approaches: A number of leaders and teams I work with do not have the mindshare to brainstorm ways to approach our performance effort.  Again, they are so overloaded with other challenges that the exercise of coming up with new, innovative ideas for improvement is simply overwhelming.  In these instances I find myself offering up a slate of ideas to get the conversation going.  This provides the initial fuel leading to robust conversations. 
  • Scale Back: I am fine with leaders and teams needing me to prime the pump to get a project going (per the above two bullets). However, this is the case only IF the team is then able and willing to do the heavy lifting.  In cases where the team is truly overloaded, I suggest that the project be scaled back, delayed or dropped altogether.  It is much better to back away from a project that would end up flailing than to push it forward.  

In summary, I am finding that in some cases leaders and teams need a little nudge to get them going on organizational improvement.  Given the huge challenges over the past few years I am willing to do a bit of extra work/hand holding beyond what consultants typically offer given these extra-ordinary times (how many times have we heard that term!). 

I am being provocative by using the word “enabling”.  Is the consultant by doing a bit of extra work to get an effort going “enabling”?  If so, then I guess I am an enabler….

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

Return-to-Work, Virtual or Hybrid: A Millennial Wonders If It Matters!

welcome back written on yellow sticky note- vector illustration

A consulting colleague stared at me with disbelief that I had spent time during the #pandemic writing a book The New Workforce: Productivity Through Virtual and Hybrid Teams on navigating these new environments.  She explained that she has always operated in #in-person and #online environments, seamlessly switching between the two.

I am an “elder” consultant with decades of experience.  My colleague is a millennial new to the game. This gap in perspective is playing out every day in organizations across the globe. This is especially true as many businesses are now asking employees to #return-to-work during 2022, along with remaining virtual for part of the time.

This transition is creating some angst for professionals not acquainted with fluidly moving between work settings.  However, should this type of ongoing transition lead to drama?  Is focusing time and energy on work settings taking valuable energy away from asking more important questions about how to resolve critical organizational issues of the day? 

I believe the below comments of my millennial colleague featured in my book suggest that she would answer these critical questions in the affirmative:

“I’ve spent most, if not all, of my professional career operating in hybrid virtual/in-person work environments on global teams. I was 24 when I joined one of the largest business consulting firms in the world, where I was expected to travel 100% for work, which in my case meant I was getting on a plane each Monday at 6 a.m., coming home each Thursday by 11 p.m., and working from home on Fridays.

Across all industries I worked in, from manufacturing, to consumer-packaged goods, to retail, my clients expected consultants to be onsite physically each week. This was even the case when I was put on a project based in Budapest, Hungary, where I was able to finagle a “2 weeks onsite, 2 weeks working from home” schedule for a year.

I’ve worked on deliverables and carried out entire meetings and workshops on planes, busses, and trains, in coffee shops, lobbies, my parents’ kitchen, the client’s onsite cafeteria—you name it. The idea of “going into work to get things done” is an interesting one in my experience, because I have had to constantly learn how to work with others in whatever context was presented to me. …

If nothing else, this pandemic has tested our assumptions, truths, and rules that we may have held close. By allowing ourselves the space and possibility to hold multiple truths together, we can continue to stay agile and continue operating in whatever environment or context is presented to us next—whether it be a plane, a coffee house, or my parents’ kitchen. I look forward to it.”

In my book I conclude that the virtual approaches I share, such as online polling and whiteboards, can be easily leveraged in hybrid and in-person environments.  The key is to become adept at tools and techniques that will help your teams succeed regardless of where they are delivered. 

As a fellow “elder” consultant said to me last week: “We have a lot to learn from the millennials about how we approach work.”

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

Recreating “Water Cooler” Conversations in the #Virtual and #Hybrid Work World

Water dispenser in the room, front view

This is an excerpt from my new book The New Workforce: Productivity Through Virtual and Hybrid Teams. For additional ways of getting teams to higher performance in an online world purchase book here and please write a review:

When we worked in-person, the problem of the day was the main topic of conversation. As soon as we landed at the office, someone would ask, “Did you hear about the ERP system?” An emergency meeting invite regarding an angry large customer would appear as soon as we turned on our computers. As we poured our first cups of coffee, team members were huddled together in the cafeteria excitedly talking about the production line that went down.

The office setting provided many forums where team members could share what they knew about the challenge and explore together how it happened. Perhaps most telling, the gaggle of employees in the cafeteria was essentially an informal problem-solving session helping make sense of the current challenges. This was happening at the same time leaders were dropping into each other’s offices to carry out similar debriefs.

After going virtual, the first thing I noticed at our initial online meeting was that team members were no longer benefiting from those hallway and cafeteria conversations. This wasn’t surprising since the hallways and cafeterias were closed. Because the employees were working from home, they no longer had those important informal chats. Virtual employees were now making sense of the problem for the first time when I convened them for an initial meeting. …

I realized that I needed to re-create these pregame informal discussions in a virtual setting where teams hashed through the nature of the problem ahead of time. …  The first thing I do is jump onto one-on-one virtual calls with team members to get these conversations going. … I ask them a few pointed questions and make a number of suggestions:

  • I ask what the problem is and if they know its root cause. I also ask how they know this is the source of the problem.
  • I encourage them to initiate additional virtual live conversations with their peers.
  • I point out that exchanging ideas about the problem on collaboration software like Microsoft Teams or Slack builds understanding.
  • I suggest shooting off a few emails if they don’t have time for live conversations.

These methods spur teams into productive action in our online world…

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer

Book Announcement:

A Pandemic Story – Performance Through Virtual and Hybrid Teams

The New Workforce: Productivity Through Virtual and Hybrid Teams by Dr. Kevin Anderson tells the story of how going virtual due to the pandemic led to work innovations. The idea of delivering business consulting virtually was unimaginable for Dr. Anderson. He had spent decades building a brand based on being in the same room with intact business teams. He is also a self-described technological idiot. Going virtual in March of 2020 completely shook his world.

This book describes Dr. Anderson’s journey to design and deliver online work and meetings for high team performance. His story of how to approach work in the virtual and hybrid environment has not been told. The book starts with organizational topics such as business problems, strategy to execution, structure, and culture-building. This is followed by practical tips and techniques for succeeding online in these key areas that teams grapple with every day.

Through twelve practical lessons, learn how to craft effective virtual and hybrid work exercises and pair them with user-friendly online interactive technologies, such as online polls and whiteboards. Discover helpful ways to guide and facilitate teams in the virtual arena. Finally, end each chapter by reading the reflections of leading organization development (OD) consultants who have gone on this journey with Dr. Anderson over the past year.

As organizations struggle with remaining virtual, returning to work, or some hybrid approach that’s a mix of both, this book offers invaluable practical approaches for team success in the new workplace.

Purchase book here and please write a review:

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

Great New Book To Help Make Your Virtual Meetings More Effective and Efficient

We are all looking for ways to make our #virtualmeetings more productive.  The most helpful resource I have found is the book Suddenly Virtual: Making Remote Meetings Work.

Here is the back story. As a result of publishing my book Organization Design Made Easy: Structure, Process and People, I met Dr. Joseph Allen who just published this very timely book along with Karin Reed.  Dr. Allen is a professor at the University of Utah and the Director of the Center for Meeting Effectiveness.  Dr. Allen’s website.

Rather than ‘teaching’ people tips and tricks that are hardly ever applied, Dr. Allen reviews real meetings and provides specific, relevant, and actionable feedback on how they can be improved. True learning in action:) [And BTW: He has written 100s of articles on meeting effectiveness after reading through 1,000s of articles.  So you can check that task off your to do list!]

One of Dr. Allen’s findings that I have found most useful is the importance of providing voice opportunities in meetings.  He discovered that team members need to feel that they can speak up, be heard and have their opinions acknowledged in online meetings. Participants want to be accepted, validated and have their thinking included in the decision making processes.  Creating this open, safe environment is easier said that done online.  Dr. Allen’s research offers suggestions for drawing out participants including turning cameras on, as well as active facilitation.

And in case you are interested Dr. Allen is conducting a meeting effectiveness study for organizations.  The other connection here is Keith Leust, who I worked with at Accelare, who is part of Dr. Allen’s research team. For more information, give Keith a shout at

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer

How To Create Human Connection During Online Meetings

See the source image

The #workplace teams I consult with are driving extra hard to perform in this challenging environment.  They stay on task. However, I do get glimpses of stresses around parents’ health concerns, kids online schooling road blocks and other unfathomable challenges around working remotely.  This is unchartered terrain. 

As these stresses bleed into our daily work, it becomes increasingly apparent that virtual employees no longer have a forum to talk about and work through what they are experiencing.  Pre-pandemic, they could grab a cup of coffee with co-workers in the lounge and kick around their daily challenges.  Today, for many of us, that forum is gone.

They clearly want to share with their peers what they are experiencing.  However, jumping into a meeting and telling their stories may be uncomfortable and frankly not welcomed given the work tasks at hand.  This is why I have added opportunities for employees to share their triumphs, challenges, and even the mundane, as part of day-to-day meetings.  Any of us leading meetings can incorporate places where the team can interact.

 Here are three examples from virtual meetings I have led:

  • As a meeting kick off, I challenged project team members to show something from their home office.   We soon found ourself viewing a home workout area being built, some favorite family pets and even a half-eaten lunch. 
  • As part of a manufacturing plant leadership team, we explored the challenges that they are facing with their workforce given the pandemic.  Leaders shared stories and tips and techniques for helping employees who are struggling.
  • Team members talked about what they have learned about themselves from the pandemic.  The responses included funny stories about finding out that that their families despised their cooking.  Other discoveries included moving accounts of reuniting with family members that had formerly been distant.

These shared stories may seem small.  However, when people are staring at a computer screen all day, followed by being homebound by night, these very human interactions can take on expanded meaning.

The benefits are numerous.  Employees feel that they have been heard.  Peers have benefited from knowing that they are not alone.  Practical ideas for resolving challenges have been shared. 

Let’s be honest. At this point, even if all we do is help employees experience a sense of workplace normalcy, that is a job well done!

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

The Three Essential Change Tools

If you were on a desert island (or how about quarantined!) and could only bring three change management tools, what would they be? Kevin Anderson took this challenge in his new book Organization Design Made Easy.  He spoke about the power of simplifying our field at a recent Performance Excellence Network (PEN) session. 

Go to Amazon Author in a new screen to view a clip.

Buy Book Now: 

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.

My New Book: Organization Design Made Easy: Structure, Process and People

If you’re looking for a page turner on organization design, this is it!  I’ve worked on this book for several years drawing on ideas from my consulting work, as well as my amazing peers.  It’s perfect for new and seasoned managers to C-level leaders.  Please write a review of the book and post the link on your social media!

Buy Now:

Book Description

The most popular business books on the market today advise leaders to simply articulate a vision, be inspirational from time-to-time, and leave the rest for employees to figure out.

As an organizational design consultant, Dr. Kevin Anderson has landed at the doorstep of hundreds of teams who have followed this path, only to find them without clear direction, stuck in silos and lacking the structure and processes needed to perform.

This book offers practical advice on how to design your organization. Whether you’re a leader at the top of a large organization, or a supervisor of a small team, here are the practical instructions to address structure, process and people challenges in developing an efficient and functioning organization. And, these same methods can be leveraged by consultants and employees at any level.

Each chapter offers three easy steps to address organizational challenges and opportunities. This means that you get just enough context, process and tips to immediately jump in feet first. Those who do not take the time upfront to craft their organizations leave their success up to chance. 

Note: This blog does not reflect the views of my employer

A Response To Our Clients’ Pain: Listen


Our business clients are trying to stay focused on organizational improvement.  However, it is evident that there are bigger forces at work here.  We are all worried about our health and well- being in the face of this world-wide pandemic.

As Organizational Development professionals our role is to offer up solutions.  We toss in an approach or a few probing questions and before we know it, the problem is resolved.  Today, however, we may have met our match.  There is no easy ideas that we can toss into the mix that will make this go away.

Our teams and colleagues are feeling a level of worry and grief that is in many cases off the charts.  The most helpful response may be to offer a forum where team members can talk about what they are experiencing.

The Reverend Gale Robb recently delivered a sermon ( where she suggested that we are dealing with the concept of lament.  Lament is the result of people asking “why” and not getting an answer back.  Lament is a biblical term which may apply to our daily working life as well.

Lament helps us move beyond our immobilizing individual fears.  Reverend Robb says that lament requires us to reflect on the overall suffering of the world.  She observes that the power of lament is that it provides “public witness of intense personal grief.”  The conversation is about unbearable sadness.  However, it is naming your grief and pain within community.

This is the power of taking time during our organizational meetings to allow our teams to express what they are experiencing during these unprecedented times.  Reverend Gale quotes the late Eugene Peterson’s thoughts on why lament can transform in his book Leapt Over a Wall:

 “Lament isn’t an animal wail, an inarticulate howl. Lament notices and attends, savors and delights – details, images, relationships. Pain entered into, accepted, and owned can become poetry. It’s no less pain but it’s no longer ugly. Poetry is our most personal use of words; it’s our way of entering experience, inhabiting it as our home, and not just watching it happen to us.”

What help can we offer to those experiencing worry and pain as a result of this pandemic?  We can start by simply listening.  Lead with suggested approaches and tools, No.  Simply listen.

This blog does not reflect the views of my employer.




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Kevin Anderson, Dr. Organizational Design

Building High Performance Workplaces for Productivity, Fulfillment and Connection

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