Organisational innovation

John Drever | 08 May 2014 | Comments

Why we designed our organisation with innovation at its heart

Why we designed our organisation with innovation at its heart

When I came to write this first piece, I found myself looking back over 25 years in business and thinking about the organisations I have worked in and what they were like. I have found myself being reorganised in organisations where regular change became the norm. Unfortunately, it always seemed as though re-organisations start with a shuffling of the deck chairs at the top of the business – followed by a re-alignment to functional, project, market or various matrix permutations – depending on the current state of the business and usually at the whim of the incoming MD!

Times have changed and when we recently re-organised in Atkins’ Communications business we took an entirely strategy-centric approach to our organisational design, based on Tracey & Wiersema’s Value Discipline model (below left). Once we decided on our strategy could we then start looking at our value creating processes and only at step 3 (below right) we started to think about the actual organisational structure.


Our business’ strategic aspiration is to become more focused on product and service leadership and the values we want to inspire in the business to drive growth are:

  • a focus on technical excellence to enable innovative solutions to be provided;
  • an ability to bundle different services/solutions to gain maximum market share of services globally; and
  • building on our existing capability foundation and developing solutions in line with customer and market needs.

In Atkins’ Communications business we identified many drivers for change and the external ones aligned 100% with the drivers identified by Sheth and Ram’s seminal paper on ‘Bringing innovation to market’ (see below). It was obvious that we needed to focus on innovation at an organisational level.


So the new financial year starts with a new organisation for the Communications business built on solid strategic choices. Our four new directors are in place and I’m very excited to have been selected as Innovation Director, particularly with the engineering, project and business management talent already evident in the business. I’m looking forward to seeing what new services, products, clients and markets await us in the future. And what new capabilities we will need to develop to address these.

My vision is to create an innovation centre that will cultivate and harness the creativity in the business to provide tangible commercial benefits. To do that I need to be totally in tune with the issues and challenges facing our customers now and in the future, so a strong interaction with the business development community will be vital. We also need to proactively develop new and innovative services and capabilities, so a close proximity to the engineering and project delivery functions is also important.

I want to capture the great ideas and inventions that are happening already on Atkins’ ICT projects and see how we can make them work for our other customers. To make this all happen we need to ensure that the competence of our staff is developed so that they continually innovate on behalf of our clients. Basically I want to use innovation to put Atkins on the map as a leading ICT consultancy!