What are the Shearing Layers?

Shearing Layers is a systems thinking approach to how organisations work. It’s a way of looking at the building blocks of an organisation and seeing how each block works with or shears against the organisation as a whole.

The framework identifies four layers that, when aligned, support each other and make the organisation strong.

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As a diagram, it's best read from the bottom up. Beliefs woven into Focus made possible by Strategy delivered by Action. Each layer built on the one below.

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In an ideal world, all Actions should be for the benefit of the customer and should fit within the strategy. The Strategy should be a solidly thought through best guess at how to realise whatever product or organisational objectives the company honestly sets it sights on. Focus should always be chosen to further the purpose and values of the organisation. And Beliefs should be discovered rather than invented; a true reflection of the driving forces that have always made things tick.

The reality of organisational life is often far from anybody's description of an "ideal world". When stress enters the system — from the outside in the form of market or technology shifts for instance, or on the inside from all the normal pressures like lack of funding or disagreements within the team — the building blocks come under tension and can start to shear apart.

It is the leader's job to deal with tensions and keep the team moving forward with clarity and cohesion.

For a fuller discussion of the Layers and each of the building blocks, take a look at the first section of the Skip to Market manifesto.

Why the name shearing layers?

Read more about it