The ripple effect

I’m going to share something with you that can help transform how you think about aligning your actions and decisions as an organisation. And if you can do that, you can start to make some serious headway in building a strong, lasting [Bob].

It’s called the ‘Ripple Effect’ because it’s a bit like dropping a pebble in a pond. The ripples travel out from that point across the pond until they hit the edges.

I’ve rarely worked with an organisation that is good at thinking through the interconnected ramifications of what they do – across the whole organisation. The silo mentality and compartmentalised approach of org structure makes it hard, if nearly impossible.

But it’s an important skill and one that can reap huge returns, heading off potential downstream problems, making promises you can keep, improving co-worker relationships and collaboration skills, and helping everyone gain a better understanding of how the organisation works.

About 10 years ago I first read a book called The Logic of Failure by Dietrich Dorner. It came recommended by a good friend and it has been on my reading recommendations list for all my clients ever since. In large part it is what inspired me to start asking people to “drop a pebble in the pond.”

Drop a pebble

Take an action or decision or promise you’ve made. Anything will do to practise with (later you can be more specific and deliberate with what the pebble is).

Now working in a team (can be either all from same area or a cross-section), drop whatever your pebble is into the pond (aka, your organisation).

Map the ripples (aka, things it can impact). Big, small, good, bad, immediate, longer-term, opportunity, risk, that affect you, that affect others who work with you, co-workers, customers, partners, etc. Write them all down.

Now go back to the initial pebble. How might whatever it is look different if you apply what the ripples revealed.

I’ve been using versions of this process for years and it never fails to provide new and valuable insights about how things work, where they align and where they are in conflict and, overall, how they can work better.

There are lots of management processes out there that are variations on this idea. The beauty of the Ripple Effect is that it’s something everyone in the organisation can get their heads around.

The added benefit is that this can be used in just about any area of the organisation and across a wide variety of situations – even those when working with outside providers.

Just imagine how different the recent “Commbank can’t/can” campaign might have been if the agency responsible had stopped for a few minutes and worked with their client to ripple out what could possibly go wrong when a bank tries to give a blanket “can” as their promise!

See you next week.

Michel is an independent adviser and advocate dedicated to helping organisations make promises they can keep and keep the promises they make – with a strong, resilient organisation as the result. She also publishes a blog at You can follow Michel on Twitter @michelhogan


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