All posts by Karen Mather

"A constructive culture and leadership through Organisational Development: Enabling people to make a difference - to UC’s future." The goal of Organisational Development (OD) is to facilitate organisational transformation by enabling and growing a culture that drives an organisation’s strategic goals. OD initiatives and projects support senior leadership to develop an agile and responsive workforce and organisation. OD is often defined as a systematic approach to align strategy, people and processes. UC's People Strategy can be found here:

Psychology of work, performance and wellbeing – Whiria te Taura Tangata #20

Kia ora e hoa!

I am on the cusp of a week’s leave which will definitely contribute to my own wellbeing.  So this is a short, but hopefully sweet, posting.

Blue CLUES and Weaving the Rope – November – Psychology of work, performance and wellbeing session – next month we are very excited to be co-hosting, along with the College of Business and Law and the College of Science, Professor Michael Leiter from Deakin University, a world-renowned expert in the psychology of work!

Combining Blue CLUES and Weaving the Rope sessions together this time has allowed us run the same one hour session twice on 7 November to give you two options of time. Attendance is limited to 100 people per session.  There’s more information and registration details in this blog.

Weaving the Rope – our inaugural organisational culture sessions for all staff were held late last month. It was good to go back to basics and look at the How Culture Works Model. About 150 people attended and you can see details about what we covered on the OD website soon.

Opening up those silos – an article caught my attention this morning, especially the comments about intra-unit cooperation generally being high (we work well together) but inter-unit coordination is often seen as being problematic (they are difficult to work with).

That situation plays out in many of the culture outcomes across UC’s results. Is that your experience? If so, then the article might be worth five minutes of your time.  Trying to work across silos can be frustrating and detrimental to our wellbeing at work.

“If we want to achieve great things at work, to solve challenging and meaningful problems, and to live and work in constructive cultures — we must cultivate a broader sense of We”.

Ngā mihi, Karen Mather, Organisational Development Manager

Helpful links


Avoidance and Blame – Whiria te Taura Tangata #19

A new initiative  “Weaving The Rope” – a “Blue CLUES” for all staff is coming soon so keep an eye out!

Blue CLUES:  Just over 100 leaders attended the event “Applying ADKAR to Culture Change”. Thank you to Annelies Kamp and Misty Sato (EHHD), Alex Hanlon (LR), Lynn McClelland and Jayne Austin (SSAC) and Wendy Lawson (Science) for their “speed dating” skills in sharing their culture stories. We’ll load materials to the website soon.

Avoidance and blame I had the privilege of hearing some excellent speakers last week. One of them shared a thought-provoking, amusing video which made me think about

“blame culture”.

What does that mean? Most definitions talked about situations where people are reluctant to speak out, take risks, or accept responsibility because they fear criticism, retribution or worse. This shows up in culture results in the passive/defensive cluster particularly as Avoidance – “people are expected to shift responsibilities to others and avoid being blamed for mistakes”. This style impacts all the constructive styles but particularly Achievement and Self-actualised, and it kills innovation.

As Human Synergistics say in their Whitepaper – Organisational Culture: Beyond Employee Engagement (page 24)

“…it’s not about ignoring mistakes, it’s about how the circumstance of the mistake is dealt with. Is the focus on blame or improvement? Are people given help to improve their performance?”

  • What does Avoidance look like on your circumplex?
  • Is it impacting your colleagues and your ability to achieve? Work well together? Innovate?
  • What conversations could you lead or behaviours could you model to reduce Avoidance and blame?
  • Have you seen the overall results? How does yours compare?

I will leave those thoughts with you as well as Dr Brené Brown’s video (3.25mins) to make you laugh (or at least give a wry smile if you recognise a little of yourself in her words).

Ngā manaakitanga with best wishes,

Karen Mather
Organisational Development

Achievement – Whiria te Taura Tangata #18

Kia ora koutou


I am feeling a little behind the eight-ball this month. Having returned two weeks ago from three weeks leave overseas, I feel a bit like I am still chasing my tail trying to get through the backlog plus the normal workload, as well as those new pieces of work that come our way unexpectedly. I am feeling very uncomfortable about this as I usually feel highly organised and achievement focussed!

This led me to think about Achievement – which is of course one of the constructive styles in the culture model we are using. So I thought I’d ‘work smart’ and share a very good Daniel Goleman article “Balance Your Need to Achieve”.

“Research shows that Achievement Orientation for personal goals matters crucially in early career jobs, while it morphs into a concern for the team or organization goals at higher levels.”

It is about balancing your Achievement focus with emotional intelligence, so as to help others achieve.  This, I would suggest, aligns nicely with the other three constructive styles.

Finding Out More

Ngā manaakitanga (with best wishes),

Karen Mather
Organisational Development

Creative Problem Solving ↔ Constructive Culture Whiria te Taura Tangata #17

Design Thinking

Back in August last year we highlighted the use of Problem Solving Circles to promote and grow a constructive culture. A number of you attended the advertised Blue CLUES sessions about this topic.

I hope you’ve been able to make use of this excellent tool and a number of the other tools in UC’s Ideation and Innovation Toolset.

A tool in that Toolset that I’d like to highlight today is Design Thinking.

“Design thinking is a human-centered approach to innovation that draws from the designer’s toolkit to integrate the needs of people, the possibilities of technology, and the requirements for business success”. —Tim Brown, CEO of IDEO

Design thinking solutions are desirable from a human point of view but also technologically feasible and economically viable. It is not a methodology for every problem but in the right situations, it is very powerful. This is a good overview article and here are the resources we have gathered for you.

Many of us perhaps desire to attend the at Stanford University (I know I do) but that probably isn’t a feasible or viable proposition! The great news is – you can study Design Thinking here at UC.

I’ve just completed this paper myself and (apart from thoroughly enjoying myself) I learnt about the theory behind the Design Thinking methodology, when it is appropriate to use it, and how to practically apply it.

photo of design thinking
At the CDHB Design Lab

If you are interested you can take this paper as part of UC’s MBA or our Postgraduate Certificate in Strategic Leadership or, as a one-off.

Culture resurvey after three years – College of Education, Health and Human Development

Congratulations to the College of Education, Health and Human Development on their recent retest results – an increase in the number of staff responding to the survey and noticeable growth in the constructive styles! I look forward to you sharing some stories once you’ve had time to reflect on your results within the College.

Finding Out More

Ngā manaakitanga (with best wishes),

Karen Mather
Organisational Development

“Leadership Consciousness and Organisational Transformation” Whiria te Taura Tangata #16

Kia ora koutou!  Our first Blue CLUES for 2019 was held on 4 April, with around 100 people attended.

It was centered around Leadership Consciousness and Organisational Transformation.

Shaun McCarthy (Chairman, Human Synergistics New Zealand & Australia and Director Human Synergistics International) presented research undertaken by Human Synergistics in collaboration with Professor Dexter Dunphy (Professor Emeritus UTS and co-author of several textbooks and articles about organisational culture) which examined various stages of organisational transformation and levels of consciousness among leaders within these organisations.

They developed a hypothetical model to help illustrate these stages and levels and the impact of leaders own thinking on how organisations approach culture change.

The organisational transformation model has 6 stages:

  1. Denial;
  2. Non responsive;
  3. Compliance;
  4. Efficiency;
  5. Strategic proactivity; and
  6. Sustaining.

The stages of Leadership Consciousness also has 6 levels:

  1. Myopic Visioning;
  2. Blinkered Visioning;
  3. Conventional Visioning;
  4. Strategic Visioning;
  5. Proactive Visioning; and
  6. Total Visioning.

Change is often viewed as a threat. But what happens to the organisational culture outcomes (as shown in the Human Synergistics “How Culture Works Model“) if we do change?

The organisations operating above the line experience an increase in Individual, Group and Organisational outcomes, e.g. higher job satisfaction, role clarity, greater adaptability along with higher quality and service as opposed those organisations who are below the line. These organisations report outcomes with higher stress and job insecurity, and low intention to stay.

Shaun talked about moving through the stages and about transformational change in a short space of time being unlikely (not impossible) particularly for a large organisation. Typically for large organisations movement through each stage would take deliberate and supported effort over 18 months to 2 years.

View the video You can view the video of Shaun’s session and see the slides on the Organisational Development Blue CLUES website.

Admin Plus Professional Development Day
Karen Mather had the privilege of talking about culture with a group of about 45 attendees at the recent Admin Plus day on campus. It was an excellent conference-style day. HR is a proud sponsor of Admin Plus, which is a very active professional learning community.

Finding Out More

Ngā manaakitanga (with best wishes),

Karen Mather and Rachel Dillon
Organisational Development