Don’t Touch the Bananas


I learned a lot of my meagre organisational design and development skills through the mentorship of a great friend, Tim Dalmau.

Tim has taught many of the world’s great company leaders about how cultures really work. He teaches that cultures lie deep within all organisations. They are immensely hard to alter. This is because altering them involves trying to meddle with their identities: who they are, what their meaning in life is and so on.

From this perspective “Culture Change” and “Business Transformation” programs can be seen for what they really are: attempts to change practices but which won’t alter the underlying culture in any enduring way.

Just how hard it is to “change” cultures can be seen from the famous Apes In The Cage experiment, reported widely some years ago.

The research involved putting a monkey in a cage with a bunch of bananas. The monkey grabbed bananas and ate them, until the bunch was electrified. The monkey of course recoiled, tried again, got a shock and eventually sat in the corner. Another monkey was added. The first one tried to stop the second one from doing what monkeys do: eat the bananas. Eventually the second one touched the bananas and of course got a shock. It retreated too.

Then a third monkey was added and the first two succeeded in preventing the third from touching the bananas at all.

A fourth was added. The first three also stopped the fourth. (Just to recap: we now have two monkeys that have had direct experience of the shock and one that hasn’t but joins in transmitting the knowledge of the first two to the fourth monkey.)

Then they take the first out and add a fifth. Same story: don’t touch the bananas.

Then they take out the remaining monkeys one by one, adding in new monkeys, in the meantime having turned off the shock. No new monkeys touch the bananas, even though every instinct tells them to!

The experiment shows how culture is created, how it survives and how pervasive it is. It doesn’t intuitively matter that the research was later found not to be real, because we can all relate to experiences from real life in organisations that back up the “research.”

Tim also teaches that for every complex problem there is usually a simple solution…and it is usually wrong! It would be tempting to think that the Volkswagen debacle can be explained in simple terms. However, I can’t help but think that underneath all the duplicity, lying, fear, cover-ups, insincere apologies and the like there lies a cultural basis for what happened. Somewhere in the early history of that great company, someone in leadership experienced a lack of integrity in his dealings with others. That so called leader “taught” others that it was OK not to be true to one’s word, presumably if it served the company’s financial goals. And so the culture of “espoused integrity” but “no-integrity-in-action” has continued to the present day.

Regular posters to blogs lament these kinds of cultures and practices in modern workplaces. Organisational leaders who want to tap wisdom need organisational design and development advice that goes to the deep roots of how organisations really run.

The Leadership Foundation is Brisbane-based and runs events where leaders explore the implications of these great kinds of issues for their own leadership. In a safe environment, leaders develop their understanding of how leadership actually works and how to navigate potentially explosive situations like the Volkswagen case, before they happen. You are most welcome to join us.

By Ian Sampson : Ian is a Cause & Effective Associate. If you are facing obstacles as an executive, CEO or Director contact Ian for a no-obligation exploratory chat about how coaching can offer new ways forward.

When The Dog Dies


Bob and Alison have been friends of ours for years. Recently Bob decided to retire and they put on a BBQ to mark the event. While Bob tended the steak in his inimitable fashion, I asked Alison about their plans for the next chapter in their lives. Without hesitation she reeled off a list of trips, lengthy visits with extended family members and maybe a house swap with people they know in Canada. But then she put this caveat on these wonderful adventures:

“Of course that’s WTDD”

“What’s WTDD?”, I asked.

Sheepishly Alison glanced at Max their Cattle Dog, who was sitting by the BBQ willing Bob to drop a sausage, and whispered …

“When the dog dies”.

As an animal owner I understood exactly what she meant. While certainly not wishing anything untoward to happen to a beloved pet, their exit from the scene can often be regarded as a pivotal point in the history of our lives.  Upsetting, yes, but when we no longer have the responsibility of a four-legged friend a vista of opportunities can open up.

Later I got to thinking that the exit of a CEO from a Not For Profit is, in a sense, a WTDD moment. Hold the outrage and stay with me,  I am not comparing CEOs to animals! But both events can be pivotal moments in time.

Using Alison’s example, she was implying that when Max goes, after probably shedding buckets of tears, one of the first things she and Bob will do is sit down and explore their options – maybe they will checkout some latest travel deals, talk to family friends to see what they are up to, see how their Canadian friends are placed and make plans accordingly. What they wont do is hot foot it to the nearest animal shelter and get another dog!

When a CEO announces their intention to leave, Board’s need to adopt the same approach. While the occasion is potentially upsetting and disruptive, a Board needs to take a breath and examine the unique opportunities for renewal and fresh thinking that arise at this time. They don’t need to urgently dust off the CEOs PD, cobble together an advertisement and wrangle a replacement ASAP. This knee-jerk reaction can often snuff out these great opportunities and do little to better position the organisation for the challenges ahead.

To help  at this critical time, we have developed our Janus Leadership Transition Program which has been specifically designed to help NFP Boards recognise that new leadership also provides a pivotal chance for change and growth. If your NFP, or one you know, is going through a leadership transition lets talk about the options available to better place your organisation for the future – they go well beyond placing an advertisement on a Job Board.

By the way, looking at Max run around their pool, Bob and Alison will have plenty of time to save for their trips!

By Chris Gandy – Chris is the Founder and Principal of Cause & Effective. We specialise in assisting cause-based organisations to maximise the opportunities that arise during leadership transitions.

Adeptly Tackling Wicked Problems


Uncertainty around complexity is more manageable when you think differently about the problems and the people involved and you have a proven process to follow.

To us different thinking means that we need to be ADEPT :

Appreciative that people, at their best, bring experience, knowledge and wisdom to decision-making.

Accepting that Diverse perspectives, knowledge and values are needed for effective collaboration, including those from people with ‘lived experience’ of the problem.

Aware of the Emergent principle that we can’t plan our moves too far in advance and expect things to go as predicted because messiness, unpredictability and uncertainty are necessary precursors of positive change.

Participatory in our approach as shared decision-making, shared solution ownership and accountable implementation are all essential parts of the complex problem-solving process.

And Thoughtful that people need time for conversation, to listen, learn and digest new information, to test new ideas and form solutions that stick.

By John Dengate – John is a Director at Twyfords. He and his team can coach you to have a different experience that forever changes the way you think about how to tackle complex issues.




Organisations go to a great deal of trouble to attract the most suitable people. It makes sense then to follow up the investment in new recruits by taking care to retain employees.

There is no shortage of information about retention strategies – Google scholar lists 16000 articles for 2015 alone.
Strategies to retain employees include encouraging humour, family support, career opportunities, good managers, and development opportunities. No shortage of advice.

Here is a way to reveal what your retention strategies really include. Take the group of your longest-serving employees and ask yourself.

“Do these employees best demonstrate our organisation purpose, values, and the behaviours we most value?”
“Are our longest-serving employees our “best”. Are they our A Team?”

If your answers to the questions are “Yes”, congratulations!
If your answer is “No”, you have a retention strategy which is successful in retaining mediocrity. You may want to do something about that.

By Joe Moore. Joe is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore Associates. He and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can contact Joe here

Being Around For the Long-haul

The "Superpit" at Kalgoorlie Boulder, WA, Aust. The largest open cut goldmine in the world. It takes trucks 45 mins to carry one load from the pit - talk about a long haul!

The “Superpit” at Kalgoorlie Boulder, WA, Aust. The largest open cut goldmine in the world. It takes trucks 45 mins to carry one load from the pit – talk about a long haul!


For the most part we work with people trying to deal with social problems – homelessness, drug and alcohol issues, displaced people, domestic violence, literacy, education participation etc. For many these can be highly challenging and, at times, demoralising assignments. Ones that are not made easier by a media that sensationalize and overemphasises our perceived lack of progress. This then prompts our political leaders to constantly move the goalposts as they manicly promise and then search for far quicker fixes.

These conditions take its toll on people and organisations alike. Some limp along with little support, while others are forced to amalgamate or close altogether. Others, thankfully for our communities, continue to persevere and make considerable headway. So what are these surviving organisations doing that’s makes them sustainable?

Willa Seldon and Meera Chary from the Bridgespan Group provide someone insights into this by studying 11 Programs their organisation has worked with. Each of the Programs have been operating for an average of 12 years but continue to produce measurable improvements in their communities.

Quite apart from the fact that these organsiations are still around to tell their stories, Willa and Meera also identified a number of other common features, including:

Stakeholder management

Successful organisations know who their key stakeholders are; they engage them and then keep them engaged.


Despite significant funding swings, multiple changes to the stakeholder groups and other factors outside of their control, these organisations had developed a knack of adapting and converting changes into opportunities.

Getting community buy-in.

As Willa and Meera observed … “Most of the community programs we looked at noted that working closely with residents and local groups was important, but it was often unclear how to do this well”. This suggests that while community involvement is essential, what works for your community is the way to go rather than a template approach.

Using data to improve and communicate results.

These organisations work out a way to measure their impact. They then use this to improve and refine their practices and effectively communicate this with all stakeholders; and I would suggest funding bodies.

Clearly for an organisation to effectively deal with social problems, persistence is critical, but not enough. To get real results, an organisation needs to be strategic and prepared to continually learn and evolve.

By Chris Gandy – Chris is the Founder and Principal of Cause & Effective. We can help your organisation make sure it can serve its cause in the long-term, contact us to discuss how.

NFPs Need to be Innovative

If you lead a NFP the time has never been better for some thinking outside the box

If you lead a NFP the time has never been better for some thinking outside the box


Recently I attended a breakfast hosted by Deloitte, titled “Vision, Budget, Sector Reforms”. The guest speaker was the Minister for Social Services, Scott Morrison.

Unlike his colleagues Tony Abbot and Joe Hockey, the Minister was able to get his message across to the audience of about 70 leaders from the NFP sector in a clear and understandable way.

The Minister was asked by a member of the audience if he was in favour of the competitive scenarios expected due to the funding changes to many NFPs, such as the NDIS. As would be expected of a conservative politician, the Minster said he welcomed the competition as it would bring financial benefits to many social issues. He spoke about the healthy competition in the early childhood and care sector where there were private, public and NFP organisations all operating side by side. He mentioned that there must be money to be made in the sector as the property developer, Meriton was now incorporating day care centres into their building projects.

He did acknowledge that this new competitive environment would mean that many NFPs would need to think differently along the lines of a commercial “for-profit” organisation but this would have benefits in the future.

The take home message from the Minister was that the NFP sector needed to embrace innovation. While recognizing that some NFPs had already embraced the concept, he stressed the point that more was required.

This different way of thinking will be alien to many NFP leaders who for years have been used to bulk grant funding. Now funding will be more along the lines to which commercial “for-profits” are used to. It means that funding is no longer a given and that to be able to cope with the new uncertainty NFPs will need to be agile and flexible.

By Walter EdgarWalter can help you, your colleagues and Board members with this transition in order that you stay relevant and achieve sustained success. He can be contacted here.

How This Climate Change Campaigner May Help People Embrace Your Cause


Working in the not for profit sector can be mighty rewarding, but it can also be frustrating at times. Don’t know about you but for me a time of major frustration is after toiling away to promote your Cause you find that others, groups or communities just don’t seemed to be as engaged as you are.

Norwegian psychologist Per Espen Stoknes focuses on this same issue in his book, What We Think About When We Try Not To Think About Global Warming. Stoknes is an environmental activist who has noted that Americans are actually less concerned now about the climate than they were in 1999, despite the mountain of new studies highlighting the threat. It seems to Stoknes that more and more facts are being thrown at people, but most still aren’t taking action based on those facts—and he seeks to explain why.

In answering his own question, Stoknes concluded that rational argument just doesn’t work anymore in getting people to embrace a Cause. This is because the messaging often ignores five fundamental truths about human behaviour and he proposes a number of strategies to deal with these.

While Stoknes focuses exclusively on climate change, as you can see, each of his strategies are applicable to any Cause.

1. Make it feel personal, urgent, and local

To Stoknes we have a habit of presenting Causes as largely dealing with abstract problems that don’t happen in our community. So we present images of people being treated like flotsam in the Mediterranean, polar bears standing on ever shrinking pieces of ice or Pacific Islanders watching water lap their front doors. Graphic images yes, but the problem is that people naturally give little weight to distant problems, or those that haven’t affected their immediate social circle. I must admit, I didn’t do a test for Bowel Cancer until a friend of the same age with diagnosed with the disease!

2. Be positive.

While the facts may support it, warnings of apocalyptic doom, simply lead people to tune out. This is because we instinctively avoid stories about loss. Also attempts at making people feel guilty only serve to make them feel helpless or despairing.

As an alternative, Stoknes advocates that we talk about solutions, opportunity and a readiness to act.

3. Provide people with a way to contribute

It’s easy for people to rationalise non-action – we have all done it. My $10 donation will make no difference to this organisation or by throwing my recycling in with the general waste this week will have no impact on the planet. Stoknes talks about the problem of cognitive dissonance—if we’re not acting in a Cause supporting way, we tend to automatically adjust our beliefs to justify our behaviour.

The trick here is to establish transparent ways where people can genuinely feel that they are contributing to a Cause, no matter how small.

4. Reduce polarisation

This may not be an issue with many Causes but the supporters of some have allowed the view to develop that “if you ain’t for us you must be against us”. To Stoknes this is highly counter-productive to any Cause. As he says, arguing with a denier will probably only drive them harder into their position. “Resist the temptation to move to a ‘holier than thou’ stance, or throw a tantrum over the ‘idiots’ on the other side, even if the outspoken denialists and trolls ‘deserve’ it,” he says. Rather than fighting, he suggests empathy and talking about “resistance” to a particular position —which he sees as a natural psychological reaction—rather than “denial.”

I, too, can feel resistance, if I really take in the full implications of global warming,” he says. “After all, the climate facts are threatening, apocalyptic, and overwhelming to our ego-consciousness. It awakens our inner resistance. Taking them seriously means considerable changes in our outlook and lifestyle. We should respect the pain of deep transformation, in ourselves and others.”

5. Use the power of social networks.

The famous Asch conformity experiments of the early ’50s showed us just how powerful peer pressure and social networks can be in influencing attitudes and behaviour. What this tells us is that we need to frame information in such a way as to suggest people in a community are out of step with their friends if the don’t support your Cause. For example, 85% of people in town give to the local hospital. Always talk about the people who are getting it right – don’t demonize those who are ignoring you. At the end of the day we humans want to be like those around us…..

…. And remember when communicating about our Causes, we are talking to people just like us and we are hardwired to respond in a particular way.

By Chris Gandy – Chris is the Founder and Principal of Cause & Effective.

If Not Now, Then When?


Today the UN has proclaimed to be International Day of the World’s Indigenous People – an occasion to celebrate the stories, cultures and unique identities of indigenous Peoples around the world.

In following a few links about the Day, I came across an interesting project that I would like to make more people aware of due to it’s simplicity, communicative power and importance.

The Project is called If Not Us, Then Who and consists of a series of documentary films where various indigenous people, on different continents, describe their personal battles to protect their lives, their cultures and our forests – and our planet!

Although our forests play a major role in arresting the effects of our rapidly changing climate by annually absorbing an estimated 2.4 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide, they are under dyer threat from a resource ravenous world. It seems their only protectors are the few remaining indigenous people who call these forests their ancestral homes.

These stoic indigenous people are the frontline troops in the fight to provide a sustainable environment for our grandchildren and their cause demands our support. To quote Naderev Sano:

Who will stop ‘this madness’ of climate change, ‘if not us, then who, if not now, then when?’

 By Chris Gandy – Chris is the Founder and Principal of Cause & Effective. He is also the non-indigenous custodian of 150 acres of temperate rainforest.



Why Should Not For Profits Bother With Social Media



When people hear that I consult to not for profits on communications, sooner or later, they ask me, “Dennis, is it really worth it? Can I raise funds for my organisation on social media?”

I’m sorry, people, but those are two different questions.

Question 1: Are Social Media Worth It for Your Organisation?

First, think about what you’re trying to do with your communications. Who are you trying to reach? What do you know about them? If you engaged them successfully, what would they do?

If you know the answers to those questions, you will know whether or not social media are an important part of your business strategy. Even if they are, there are ten things you should take care of before you ever start on social media.

But in the end, chances are social media will be worth it for your not for profit. Why?  Because you need loyal supporters.

People give their first gift to your organisation for a variety of quirky reasons. When they  continue to give, it’s for one reason: because they have come to know, like, and trust you.

You will win loyalty by giving people ways to get to know, like, and trust your organisation…and nothing lets you do that more often, in a more convincing way, at less cost, than social media.

Question 2: Can I Generate Support on Social Media?

Let’s turn this question around. When you go on Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram, are you looking for a chance to support an organisation?


Well, neither are your supporters.

People use social media to stay in touch with their friends. Your challenge is to make people regard your organization as a friend.

A friend who asked you for money every time he came over to your house would soon stop getting invited. If your organization asks for money whenever you’re online, people will stop inviting you onto their screens.

The 80-20 Rule

If you really understand social media, you will follow the 80-20 rule. 80% of the time your organization is on social media, share content that’s interesting to your audience.

  • Engage in conversations with them. You know they’re interested if they’re the one who brought up the topic!
  • Post information that they won’t find everywhere else. Make them feel smarter.
  • Post “fun” content that they will enjoy. If it relates to your cause, great, but as long as it doesn’t actually conflict with it, it’s all good. Friends are not all business–and you want to be their friend.

20% of the time, call your audience to action.

  • Poll them, or ask them open-ended questions.
  • Invite them to lobby their elected officials, online.
  • Offer them a chance to volunteer.

And yes, perhaps once in a great while, you can ask for money. It will work better if it’s directed toward a specific, tangible goal, and if they can track their progress toward that goal in real time. General appeals rarely work on social media.

So Tell Me Again, Why Should I Bother?

Maybe you shouldn’t. If your specific audience isn’t on social media– because of language barriers, for instance–maybe you shouldn’t be either.

But if your audience is on social media and you’re not, what you’re telling them is, “You’re not worth it to me.”

You won’t spend the time to reach them where they like to be? Then you are not their friend. And over time, they will give their attention, time, and money to the organisations that make them feel valued. Being one of those organisations–that’s why it’s worth it.

By Dennis Fischman : Dennis is a Cause & Effective Associate who helps not for profits and small business discover better ways to communicate and, in the process, win friends and get the support they need. He is also the author of The No-Nonsense Nonprofit Guide to Social Media


Preaching To The Converted


The converted. Let’s define them those who have helped to improve some feature of their work area, and who are now trying to make sure the improvements are sustained.

Against the sometimes ambiguous results of change programs the converted may be an endangered species – certainly rare. If they are not nurtured, supported and encouraged their involvement may weaken. Commitment to reform deteriorates.

And yet “preaching to the converted” has somehow come to mean “stay away from the converted – leave them to it”. While preaching and lecturing have no constructive place in creating and maintaining behaviour change neither does ignoring success.

So – how do you treat your converted – those who are hard at work trying to sustain the improvements they have achieved? After making successful changes we do need to work hard to sustain them, so let’s not leave success to chance.

Here are three ideas to consider for helping a work group keep up the changes they have made:

1. Stress at work increases the risk of abandoning the changes – so why not help those working at sustaining change to anticipate and better deal with stress.
2. Encourage those working at maintaining improvements to take credit for what they have achieved.
3. Hold “lessons learnt” sessions – simply have the team identify what worked well and what didn’t work so well and focus on how to have more things go well.

By Joe Moore. Joe is the founder and principal of Kimber Moore Associates. He and his team are highly skilled in helping leaders and staff deal with uncertainty, change, complexity and conflicts. You can contact Joe here