RO – My Favourite Organisation Development System

Requisite organisation forms the basis for organisation and work design, leadership strategy and talent and Human Resource Management practices.

Requisite Organization is the term created by Elliott Jaques to refer to the only total system approach to the effective management of work, including structure, leadership processes and human resources. The concepts and practices embedded in Requisite Organization are the result of the systematic application of numerous scientific discoveries about the nature of work and the nature of individual’s capacity for work. Requisite Organization is an evolving model based on more than 60 years of continuing scientific research by Elliott Jaques, aided, supported and validated by the research of colleagues around the world. The model provides a theoretical base and common language for measuring work complexity and human capability that allows for sane-making, systems-level design solutions for organizational effectiveness.

Use of the model allows organizations to systematically:

•Match employees to roles that allow for the fullest expression of their gifts.

•Match employees to managers who can provide them satiating leadership.

•Structure the organization to catalyse free flow of communication and leadership both vertically and horizontally.

•Clarify accountabilities and authorities to enable productive work.

•Codify effective managerial leadership practices.

In his writings, Jaques goes into significant detail in elaborating his ideas and in describing their practical application. An organisation structure is a defined set of role relationships which, implicitly or explicitly, set limits of behaviour and action and, hence, imply freedom of behaviour within those limits.

A MANAGERIAL HIERARCHY is an employment system where people are organised into an accountability hierarchy of managerial and subordinate roles. Jaques’ holds that managerial hierarchies are the most natural and efficient form for large organisations of people employed to work and, properly structured, can release energy and creativity and improve morale. In a managerial hierarchy, a manager has three critical accountabilities. The manager is accountable for:

 1. the output of staff [or of a process] and adding value to their work;

 2. sustaining a team of staff [or a process] capable of producing those outputs; and,

 3. exercising effective managerial leadership, ie., setting direction for staff and getting them to willingly work along with him/her to move in that direction.


Everyone, of course, is also accountable for his or her own personal effectiveness within a role.

 In order for managers to be able to discharge these accountabilities, they must also have four minimum authorities:

•veto of appointment of an unacceptable staff member;

•decide assignment of tasks;

•decide (not simply recommend) personal effectiveness appraisals and merit rewards; and

•decide, after due process, to initiate removal of a staff member from the team (note, not necessarily the authority to dismiss the person from the organisation).

Jaques defines WORK as the exercise of judgement and discretion in order to carry out a TASK – defined as an assignment to produce an output of specified quantity and quality within a given time and with allocated resources, for a given purpose (context) and within prescribed limits of action and behaviour (policies, procedures etc.). Work is carried out in the context of a person’s ROLE in the organisation,that is the position occupied.

As one goes higher in a work system, the complexity of problem solving [or problem creation – in a postive sense] increases; there are more and more complex problems of longer and shorter project completion time. The LEVEL OF WORK or “weight of responsibility” in a role is reflected by the degree of complexity of that role. The greater the complexity, the greater the level of work. Many people agree that the greater the complexity (level of work) in a role, the greater should be the remuneration attached to that role.

Clearly, the tasks in a role will not all be of the same level of complexity. A person in a particular role will have variety of tasks – some simple some complex – but the higher the level of complexity of the most complex tasks in role, the higher in the organisation those tasks should appear.

A simple measure of the complexity of a role or the level of work is provided by the TIME SPAN OF DISCRETION – the longest of the maximum target completion times of the tasks or task sequences in a role. The longer the timespan of discretion, the higher the level of work. Studies have also indicated a high correlation between the time span of discretion of a role and felt fair pay.

The time span measurement is not a good gauge of the degree of complexity of a task. The task completion time provides only a measure of minimum complexity – for example a relatively simple task might become complex if it is compressed into a much shorter time frame. Nor can one look at the complexity of a problem or task in terms of the result which is to be achieved. One must consider what has to be done to achieve the result – the process or the pathway which must be followed on the way to the goal.

Jaques theorises that that role complexity does not increase in a continuous way but in a discontinuous or step-wise manner. Using the time span measure of role complexity, he proposes that these discontinuities appear at time spans of 1 day, 3 months, 1 year, 2 years, 5 years, 10 years, 20 years and 50 years. These breaks in role complexity form the natural boundaries between managerial levels or “strata” in a managerial hierarchy, regardless of political, social, economic and cultural differences. A person within one stratum will consider others in the same stratum as peers. Staff will only recognise as their “real manager” a person who is in the stratum above them (assuming that person is capable within that stratum).

To explain the cause of the development of these stratum discontinuities in managerial hierarchies, Jaques links them with categories of peoples’ mental processing capability. Furthermore, there is a correspondence between a person’s current category of complexity of mental processing (which can be objectively determined) and the highest level work role (stratum) which that person has the potential capability to carry.

To be capable of operating successfully in a particular role (at a particular stratum), a person must have:

•the right level of complexity of mental processes;

•a commitment to the type of work (must value the work);

•the necessary skilled knowledge; and

•an absence of any negative temperamental traits.

Problems in an organisation can arise when a person is in role at a level higher than his or her current capability (stress and an inability to cope) or at a level below his or her current capability (frustration); when there are too many layers (people bypass their notional managers and go directly to their “real” manager in the next natural stratum above) or when there are too few layers (difficulties in delegating appropriately).

A REQUISITE ORGANISATION is one which is structured so that the number of managerial layers are consistent with these natural boundaries; which has the appropriate role relationships in terms of accountabilities and authorities; and in which roles are occupied by people who are fully capable of working in those roles.

 The notion of “stratums of work” is also referred to as “Levels of Work Theory” and “Stratified Systems Theory”. The levels of work model stratifies “work” according to how complex and ambiguous this work is. The following is a high level description of the purpose and features of the first six levels.

Level 6 – Corporate Prescience

•To bring into being and keep in being the economic, social, political, technological and religious contexts which will alert and protect groupings of Level V Strategic Business Units. Translates vision into mission

•Monitors, obtains and shapes information regarding the international context, protects the strategic business units against excessive turbulence, alerts them to opportunities and possible pressures and represents the organisation in the trans-national arena

Level 5 – Strategic Intent

•To realise the strategic intent of the enterprise; -outward, to ensure long-term viability, – inward, to create and sustain optimal working conditions

•Integrate Level IV entities into a systemic unit. Modifies strategy and evaluates/refreshes mission of the organisation

Level 4 – Strategic Development

•To translate the mission of the organisation into relevant systems

•Interacting projects are planned and progressed in relation to one another (parallel processing). Successful trade-offs are made between tasks in order to achieve the goals

Level 3 – Good Practice

•To construct, implement and fine tune systems, to optimise efficiency

•Solves problems by choosing alternative branches from among current pathways. Improves and refines present systems

Level 2 – Service

•To serve the business and customers in Level I roles by framing and supporting their work

•Timetabling and coordinating Level I. Supporting Level III

Level 1 – Quality

•To make or do something where the output is concrete and can be completely specified beforehand

•Continuous activity toward one concrete goal carried out one task at a time. Works through continuous and direct action using known methods and procedures to achieve outputs

Clearly, increasing levels of work are increasingly complex / ambiguous; requiring more and different types of capability is of the incumbent if he/she is to be successful

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