3 Empowering structures


3 Empowering structures

3 Empowering structures

Organisational structures and processes reinforce the culture – so if you want an improvement culture – one that fosters a growth mindset where every individual takes individual responsibility for the quality and safety of their work, and uses their initiative to improve, then you need to have a close look at these structures and processes and make sure they are empowering – that they are not forcing your people to wait to be told to do the right thing, or worse, to conceal when the wrong thing is happening.

The point of structure is to enable people to do their best work, consistently.  Structures and processes should provide the scaffolding that supports people to do great work – structures and processes are not the end in themselves.  The design of the structures and processes provide a safe and effective way for people to raise their concerns and take personal responsibility for doing this – make it their role.  They also provide a means of connecting the right people and sharing the right information at the right time.  And they should be capable of being improved and evolve as the context changes – so you don’t ever need a ‘restructure’.

The following diagram illustrates how the empowering organisation structure (Shared governance and Engagement Structure) could run in parallel to the normal organisational structure. It works with, and builds on what is already there, so that it is easier to introduce more autonomy, accountability and innovation at the individual and team levels. It is not a major overhaul of the structure but creates another structure that enables incremental adjustments as the operating context dictates. It is inherently dynamic, allowing individuals and teams to respond to changes in priorities and workloads.

Let’s go through the elements of this dual structure.

Engagement structure:

Workforce engagement in the operations, governance and improvement of the organisation is supported by a hierarchy of time and events – not by organisational structure.  Any individual has the opportunity to engage at any of these levels, and is encouraged to. People come together in a variety of ways on a daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly and yearly basis to: raise tensions (gaps between what is what could be); discuss ideas for improvement; agree on priorities; and, report on the situation and account for performance. Here are catchup opportunities that provide the foundations of the Engagement Structure:


On a daily basis, the leader of the team (i.e. NUM) and the shift (i.e. ANUM) actively check in with individual members of their team to see how they are feeling, what they have achieved (accountabilities), what help they might need, and if there are any tensions that can be resolved right then and there.


Handover provides the perfect opportunity to check in with the team each shift.  The leads from the previous shifts report on the status of their patients/residents, their achievements (accountabilities), any tensions and priorities for the coming shift.  These tensions or priorities might be resolved immediately or be delegated to the monthly team meeting or a relevant project team.  The leads of the new shift allocate roles and clarify accountabilities.

Monthly staff meetings

Each month all staff come together to connect, discuss key priorities for the coming month, present tensions or opportunities for improvement and report on progress previous improvement initiatives.

Improvement Project teams

Improvement project teams will be formed around particular improvement/change projects – these will meet and work together to come up with solutions to the issue they have been given responsibility for. Membership to project team will be determined on the basis of individual strengths and interests so these provide a great opportunity for cross organisational collaborations. This is discussed in more detail in a later section.

Staff conference 

An annual all staff conference provides an opportunity for staff to showcase their improvement projects, celebrate achievements for the year and plan for the coming year.

Shared governance

Shared governance supports an accountability process that engages everyone in taking responsibility for the performance and improvement of the organisation.  It is simple and makes roles and their accountabilities very clear.  It also provides the individual with an avenue to raise tensions they are experiencing and that are impeding their ability to deliver their role (i.e. Riskman Q and improvement forms), and a means of reporting on improvements and key priorities across the year.

Each of the elements of the shared governance framework will be discussed in greater detail in a later section.


A growing movement in organisational structure is called Holacracy.  It provides the organisational structures and processes to distribute authority and responsibility to the individuals doing the work. Holacratic structures have designed into their processes a way of continually improving the actual structure and process so that you never need to restructure!  Holacracy is designed to empower people to lead their own roles and raise issues that get in their way.

For an introduction to Holacracy, check out this video:


Check out the website and book on Holacracy.

Watch Brian Robinson’s Ted Talk on Holacracy.

How might this apply in your work context? Share your ideas in the comments.




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