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Book Review: Creating the Vital Organisation by Brooks and Salesman

Book Review: Creating the Vital Organisation by Brooks and Salesman

Book Review: Creating the Vital Organisation by Brooks and Salesman

There seems to be an almost fanatical drive for organisations to streamline, drive efficiencies and look to get more from the resources they have. But in focusing on scarcity, we are missing the true potential to grow and achieve much greater things.

In Creating the Vital Organization: Balancing Short-Term Profits with Long-Term Success, Brooks and Saltzman offer a framework of how to exploit the vitality of the people in your organisation and move towards greater success.

Vitality is explained as the balance between focus on action in the short term and future potential in the long term. And the book explores how to best balance short actions with long-term goals, considering a number of key areas and disciplines.

In clear and well-written chapters the authors provide a set of uncomplicated tools to help overcome the currently limited way of thinking and reach a higher future potential.


Strategy relates to identifying your capabilities and choosing how to deploy them for best effect.
A strategy should be unique as your capabilities and aims.

It should also be a framework for action and decision making. It should also be adaptable to new areas of business because your strategy won’t stay unique.

Challenges to Vitality

1. Sound Leadership is critical – ideally, it should provide confidence, guidance and a balance between hitting targets and preparing for a changing future.

2. Employees need to be engaged with the vision and purpose of the organisation.

3. Processes are needed to maintain quality and make things efficient.

4. Offerings are important to establish a brand but must remain flexible to adapt to marketplace changes.

5. Service and good customer service, in particular, are critical to building loyalty.

6. Customers need to be cultivated to stay engaged and loyal to your brand. This is why people queue overnight to buy the latest iPhone!


Leaders decide the direction of the organisation and set the measurements to assess progress. A leader that sets measure that assesses both current performance and how the organisation is adapting to the future is important to ensure te organisation remains vital.

Encouraging and Protecting Innovation

Companies are so busy these days. Innovation, however, frequently requires time to think and so there needs to be a time buffer to allow day to day concerns to recede and innovation to fill the void. This will allow:
1. Those involved in developing future potential to focus.

2. Demonstrate executive level support.

3. Cross pollination of ideas.

Making Change Stick

Once a change has been instigated, using a mix of Correct Messaging, Performance and Future Vision, there needs to be a mechanism to make it endure.
Brooks and Saltzman have identified 5 mechanisms that might assist:

1. Commitment Devices – What enticement or penalty can be developed to motivate the commitment to the change?

2. Social Pressure – Use the idea that others are adopting the change to make it a normal behaviour and nudge others towards that behaviour.

3. Change Defaults – Make the change the default position (such as automated payments rather than writing Cheques)

4. Framing – present things in a positive way and remove the fear of adopting the change

5. Priming – By asking questions that put your people in the correct frame of mind you can set their expectations towards an enduring change.

Agility and Resilience

A resilient organisation has both longevity and agility. This means that the organisation needs to invest in youth and internal organisational capabilities.

Decision Making

Many decisions are frequently made using heuristics rather than considered and critical thought. Better decisions are made when the decision makers are aware of:

Optimism and Loss Aversion: People tend to be optimistic about the potential benefits and may over-estimate the return on an endeavour. They are also more concerned about avoiding loss and so risk can be given too much evidence.

Sunk Costs: Sometimes we feel the need to justify our early decisions by continuing to spend money despite a clear indication that further investment is pointless and detrimental.

Availability: We over-estimate the value of what we know, considering it to be all that there is to consider.

Anchoring: just as with Priming mentioned above, if we start to make a decision with a pre-conceived idea of the outcome or a financial value, it skews our appreciation of the situation and our subsequent decision.

Conjunction Fallacy: More detail lends additional merit to a position or argument without there being any real justification for that additional merit.

Framing: A decision may be framed in a manner that influences the decision.

Global Implementation

Just as some people are more focused on current activities rather than future potential, some Cultures and Nationalities have similar behavioural norms.
If your organisation is global in nature how sensitive are your business entities to the local community and regional issues.
There is also the potential to share knowledge and potential improvements from a global organisation. Build future potential from as many sources as possible.

Step By Step

Having built your awareness of the possibilities and potential for creating a Vital Organisation, Brooks and Saltzman provide a Step By Step guide for use within your own business.

This is an excellent primer for applying the approach and exploiting the benefits of the vitality model. As well as a primer it also presents the opportunity to measure [rogress from the original baseline and stages in any change initiatives.


Creating the Vital Organisation is an insightful book that invites the reader to consider their organisation’s attitudes (and surreptitiously their own) and assess how open and active they are in considering the future potential and how innovation is being progressed.

Highly instructive and analytical, Creating the Vital Organisation offers a staged approach at changing your own organisation into one that embraces innovation and gives you the leadership tools to make that change endure.

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