Exercise 1

A. Look at the two company profiles: W.L. Gore and Zappos. Listen to the radio discussion with Janet Wood, an organisation consultant. Are they likely to have flat or tall structures? Why?


CEO: Terri Kelly

Sector: Manufacturing

Number of staff: Over 10,000

CEO: Tony Hsieh
Sector: Online shoe and clothing sales
Number of staff: Over 1,500

B. Listen again and decide if these sentences are true (T) or false (F). Correct the incorrect sentences.

1   Organisations with tall structures can change and innovate fast.

2   Bob and Genevieve Gore started their company in the 1960s.

3   Employees voted to decide who should be the CEO of Gore.

4   ‘Holacracy®’ is a system without traditional managers.

5   All the functions at Zappos are now done by teams.

6   The transition at Zappos will take a few months to complete.

C. Choose the correct option. Listen to the discussion again if necessary.

1   Janet Wood seems

      a   critical of hierarchies.

      b   positive about hierarchies.

      c   sceptical about flat structures.

2   Which statement about W. L. Gore is true?

      a   Employees work in teams of 30.

      b   Staff are called associates.

      c   Nobody in the company has a job title.

3   Which statement about Zappos is true?

      a   The company started two years ago.

      b   Staff work in about 500 teams called circles.

      c   The lead link of a circle decides what everyone does.

4   What do W. L. Gore and Zappos have in common?

      a   Senior executives are elected by the employees.

      b   Any member of staff can start a new project team.

      c   Staff decide their own roles in a team.

Answer & Audioscript


W. L. Gore started out as a company with a flat structure in the 1950s.

Zappos changed to a flatter structure two years ago.


1   F – Organisations with tall structures can be slow to change and innovate.

2   F – In the 1950s

3   T     4   T     5   T

6   F – The CEO of Zappos says the transition will take two to five years to complete.


1 a   2 b   3 b   4 c


DR = David Robinson   JW = Janet Wood

DR:   In this part of the show I’m talking to organisation consultant, Janet Wood. Janet, the tall organisation structure is still typical in companies today, isn’t it?

JW:   Yes, and this traditional pyramid hierarchy has many problems.

DR:   Such as …

JW:   Well, decision-making is generally slow. This type of company can be very bureaucratic and inefficient. It’s slow to change and innovate, which is a real danger in today’s world.

DR:   But is there really any alternative in a large corporation?

JW:   Yes, there are examples of successful innovative organisations which do things differently. One of the most famous is W. L. Gore, a multinational manufacturing company.

DR:   W. L. Gore is probably best known for the fabric Gore-Tex, isn’t it?

JW:   That’s right. Bill and Genevieve Gore started the company in the USA back in the 1950s with a flat structure. Today, the company still has no traditional organisational chart. Gore believes that if people are passionate about their work, they’re going to be highly self-motivated.

DR:   So, how does the company operate?

JW:   Well, there are over 10,000 employees in 30 countries divided into teams of 8 to 12 people, who work on projects and products together. The staff at Gore are actually called ‘associates’. They don’t have job titles. And they don’t have managers. Instead they choose to ‘follow’ leaders. Basically, you decide what you are going to contribute to the team and you establish your own work and pay.

DR:   I hear the associates actually elected the company’s chief executive, Terri Kelly.

JW:   Yes, she’s one of the few people at the company who has a job title.

DR:   There’s been a lot of talk in the business news recently about a concept called ‘holacracy’. Can you tell us what that is exactly?

JW:   Yes, the expression comes from the Greek word holos, meaning ‘whole’. Holacracy is essentially a system with no bosses at all.

DR:   How does this manager-free system work in practice?

JW:   Well, it’s probably too early to know. Just two years ago Zappos, the U.S. online shoe and clothes store which was started in 1999, introduced ‘holacracy’. Now all the functions of the company have been delegated to teams called ‘circles’. Zappos has about 1,600 employees distributed among some 500 circles. Each circle has a ‘lead link’ who has a similar role to a project manager.

DR:   Does this person, the ‘lead link’ decide who does what tasks?

JW:   No, circle members decide their roles and responsibilities in meetings. Larger teams have circles within circles. Sta‑ can either start a new circle or join a circle depending on the type of work they’d like to do.

DR:   Sounds complicated.

JW:   Yes, the CEO of Zappos, Tony Hsieh, says it could take another two to five years to complete the transition. In fact, Zappos has a training session next week, called a ‘Culture Camp’, and I’m flying to Las Vegas tomorrow for that.

DR:   I’m sure that’s going to be a very interesting experience. Janet, thank you for coming into the studio today.

Exercise 2

A. Listen to a short interview with Angela Dawson, a communication coach based in New York, about how to use small talk and manage first meetings. Then answer the questions.

 Why is managing first meetings in international business often difficult?

 What is the value of asking questions?

 Which types of question are most effective? Why?

 What should you ask questions about?

B. Listen again and answer the questions.

 What two things does Angela say about silence?

 Why does she say that some questions don’t matter?

 What is the relationship between asking questions and building trust?

Answer & Audioscript


1   People are strangers; they don’t know each other, and they (often) have to communicate in a foreign language.

 You learn about the other person and so can build a relationship.

 Short, simple, starter questions with follow-up questions. They allow an easy answer, they’re not too personal, they can quickly break the ice and get the conversation flowing.

4   Ask about work responsibilities and the organisation behind the person; on a personal note, travel is a good topic.


1   Silence in some cultures is a way to signal respect, but she thinks silence slows down the process of getting to know another person.

2   The content of some questions doesn’t matter, but the questions do help to break the ice and get the conversation flowing.

3   You trust people you know well. Questions help you get to know a person, and so are essential to trust-building.


First meetings in an international business setting can often be di­ cult. Two strangers come together. Often, they both have to speak a foreign language, English. So you have strangers who aren’t sure what to say to each other. And they aren’t sure how to say it. The result is pretty predictable: a di­fficult silence. Now, silence isn’t necessarily bad. In some cultures, silence is good; it’s positive because it signals respect. But for me, if you want to get to know someone, to understand them as a person and as a professional – which is essential for doing business together – then silence is a risk, because you stop this process.

If you want to learn about the other person, and build a relationship, you need to ask questions. And this is the real value of asking questions – you learn stuff about the other person.

So … Which questions do you ask? I would say, in terms of style, keep it short and simple, just ask simple starter questions. If you are meeting a visitor, you can say things like, ‘Did you have a good trip?’ Is this your first time here?’ These kinds of questions are good because they allow an easy answer, they’re not too personal, but they can quickly break the ice and get the conversation flowing.

You know, sometimes the specific questions don’t really matter; you just ask a question to get the ball rolling. And then it’s important to ask follow-up questions – if you don’t, small talk can feel very mechanical.

In terms of what you ask about in those first few minutes, I think in business you need to have a mix of personal and work topics. On the work side, asking about roles and responsibilities is good, and the organisation behind the person, and where people work and travel … all these questions are easy to answer and give you useful background. And if you listen to what people tell you, you’ll find more ideas for other questions.

And all this asking questions, well, it builds understanding and in the end … trust. Remember, it’s impossible to trust someone if you don’t know them well. And how can you know them well? You’ve got to ask questions! Oh, one final thing: if possible, find something you have in common with the other person – maybe you visited the same place, you like the same food, the same music or sport. When you and the other person have similar interests, the conversation often goes better.

Exercise 3

A. Paul Robson works for a London-based international company. He is welcoming Eva Neumann, a colleague from another office of his company. Listen and decide if these sentences are true (T) or false (F).

1   Eva travelled directly from the airport to the meeting.

2   This is Eva’s first visit to London.

3   Eva works full time in Geneva.

4   Paul is head of Customer Service.

5   Eva is leading a project called Service Excellence.

B. Look at the list of tips for making small talk in first meetings. Listen again and tick (✓) which tips Paul uses in his conversation with Eva.

Tips for small talk in first meetings

a   Give a clear and positive welcome. ✓

b   Offer to take the other person’s coat.

c   Ask about their journey to the office.

d   Offer them a drink.

e   Check if their hotel is OK.

 Offer help to organise a taxi.

g   Ask if it’s their first time in the city.

h   Suggest going for dinner later in the evening.

  Ask where the other person works.

  Check when they joined the company.

k   Make a positive comment about working with them.

Answer & Audioscript


1   T

2   F (second)

3   F (20% in Geneva only)

4   T

5   F (Paul is leading the project)


b, c, d, e, g, h, I, j, k


P = Paul   E = Eva

P:   Hi, is it Eva?

E:   Yes.

P:   Hi, Eva. Nice to meet you. Welcome.

E:   Thank you. It’s nice to be here.

P:   Did you have a good trip? Hotel OK?

E:   Yes, no problems. I haven’t seen the hotel yet. I came straight here from the airport.

P:   OK, well, follow me. My o­ffice is just through this door. So, here we are. Can I take your coat?

E:   Thank you.

P:   Good. Take a seat. Can I o‑ er you something to drink? Coffee? Tea?

E:   Just water would be nice, thanks.

P:   OK. Here you go. So, is it your first time here in the London office?

E:   Yes, it is. But I’ve been to London once before.

P:  OK. For work?

E:    No, just a holiday that time.

P:   So, where do you work exactly? Are you in the Zurich office at the moment?

E:   Yes, I’m responsible for sales support there. I work 20 percent in Geneva, though.

P:   OK, and, do you report to Paul Blaettner?

E:   Yes, I do. You know him?

P:   Yes, I worked with him on a sales project last year. I was thinking of inviting him to join us later. Are you free for dinner this evening?

E:   Yes, that would be nice.

P:   Fine, so I’ll organise that. And, funny, you know I also worked in Geneva. When did you join the company?

E:   End of last year.

P:   OK, then I just missed you. I moved to this job here in October. So you know, I’m now Head of Customer Service, and also this new international project around Service Excellence, which is why we’re here.

E:   Yes, I’m really looking forward to this project. It’s going to be a lot of work, but I’m ready.

P:   It’s really good to have you on the project. So, shall we make a start? I know you have a busy schedule and lots of other people to meet.

Exercise 4

A. Listen to some employees giving their views. Which speaker talks about a) the communal areas, b) the office layout and c) the general impression?

B. Listen again and summarise the main suggestion(s) each person has for changes to the workspace.

Answer & Audioscript


The first speaker talks about b) the office layout.

The second speaker talks about c) the general impression.

The third speaker talks about a) the communal areas.


Speaker 1 wants more flexible work spaces such as more meeting rooms and quiet zones for individual work.

Speaker 2 wants the office design, furniture and artwork to reflect the company’s innovative, funloving, techy image of itself.

Speaker 3 wants to have more public spaces for communication and collaboration between departments such as a bigger kitchen/dining room, a ping-pong table and an outside space where staff can go.



As the company’s grown we’ve squeezed more and more people into the same space. It’s just so cramped now. And people have different work styles. I don’t like being tied down to a desk all the time – moving around helps me to think, like when I’m talking to people on the phone. But this open-plan o­ffice makes this impossible for me to do without disturbing other people. Likewise, it’s sometimes di­fficult for me to do any work where I really have to concentrate due to noise levels and visual distractions.

It’d be great to have a more flexible work environment – more meeting rooms, you know, breakout spaces for teamwork and quiet zones where you can work alone and really focus.


There isn’t anything special about our current o­ffice space that differentiates it from any other o­ffice right now. It doesn’t say anything about our business. We say we’re innovative, fun-loving and tech-savvy so that message should be loud and clear in our o­ffice design, in the furniture and in the artwork on the walls. Let’s make sure potential clients and recruits see and feel what we’re about when they walk through the doors.

The company values work–life balance for staff and I’d like more flexible working hours and the chance to work from home a few days a week rather than the current presenteeism, so I can pick my young son up from school every day.


The kitchen is a tiny, windowless room with grey walls. Nobody wants to spend more time there than strictly necessary. Then there are vending machines in the corridor but no seating areas. I’d provide free fruit in public areas and let’s get away from people eating at their desks. Apart from anything else, it’s smelly!

The best ideas aren’t going to come when sitting in front of your monitor, but from those chance interactions and exchanges between staff. We need to create welcoming public spaces, such as a kitchen/dining room where staff from different departments can actually mingle and communicate. Let’s make sure to have plenty of space for socialising and collaboration. How about a ping-pong table and attractive outside spaces as well?


1. Listen to the speaker and choose the correct response a, b or c.

 a   b   c

 a   b   c

3   a   b   c

 a   b   c

5   a   b   c

Answer & Audioscript

1 c   2 a   3 c   4 c   5 a


 Hi, I’m Matt, the Project Manager.

      A   Let’s go and say hello.

      B   Are you the Project Manager?

      C   Hi, nice to meet you in person.

 How’s it going?

      A   Not bad, not bad.

      B   We’re going on a trip.

      C   To London next week.

 Did you have a good trip?

      A   Great to meet you finally.

      B   Sorry to be in a rush like this.

      C   There was a bit of a delay at the airport.

 Can I get you anything to drink?

      A   Not bad at all.

      B   Yes, once before.

      C   No thanks, I’m fine.

5   Sorry to rush off like this.

      A   No problem. We can leave it there.

      B   Great. It’s always the same.

      C   It’s my first time here.

2. Listen to a question and choose the correct response a, b or c.

 a   b   c

 a   b   c

 a   b   c

 a   b   c

 a   b   c

Answer & Audioscript

1 b   2 c   3 b   4 a   5 b


 Did you have a good flight?

      A   Yes, it was, thank you.

      B   Not really, there was a long delay.

      C   Yes, about an hour ago.

 Is this your first time in Budapest?

      A   Yes, I was here before.

      B   I’m sorry about that.

      C   Actually, I was here last week.

 Where are you based exactly?

      A   In a small office.

      B   New York.

      C   That would be nice, thanks.

 Are you free for dinner this evening?

      A   Sorry, I’m meeting a client.

      B   Yes, I do.

      C   That’s a good idea.

 Do you work with Sara Lintell?

      A   No, she doesn’t.

      B   Why? You know her?

      C   Yes, thanks.

3. You will hear eight short recordings. For questions 1–8 choose the correct answer.

1   Which structure does Maria’s company have?

2   Whose recruitment were employees involved in Elsa’s company?

      a   the CEO

      b   department heads

      c   team leaders

3   What time does the presentation start?

      a   2.45

      b   1.00

      c   1.30

 Who is going to meet Mr Jones at the airport?

      a   the Production Manager

      b   the Production Supervisor

      c   the Assistant Purchasing Officer

 Where are the current company headquarters currently?

      a   Montreal

      b   Geneva

      c   Dubai

 Why is the company changing its structure?

      a   to make staff happier

      b   to make ordering easier for customers

      c   to reduce the number of complaints

 What does the new client produce?

 When did Paolo join the company?

      a   today

      b   two years ago

      c   six months ago

Answer & Audioscript

1 a   2 c   3 c   4 b   5 b   6 c   7 b   8 a


1   Which structure does Maria’s company have?

A:   Does your company have a traditional organisation structure?

B:   I think it does, but it doesn’t have as many levels as some.

A:   So it’s a tall structure, then?

B:   I wouldn’t say it was tall but it’s not flat either.

A:   So it’s got more levels than a flat structure and fewer than a tall one?

B:   That’s it exactly.

2   Whose recruitment were employees involved in in Elsa’s company?

A:   Elsa, did you know the employees in my firm chose the new CEO?

B:   Wow! Did they make the right choice?

A:   Yes. We all work closely together and we knew he was the best person for the job.

B:   In our company, bosses have made some bad choices recruiting managers. I’d like to help recruit department heads, but we don’t. However, we do choose the team leaders for our projects.

A:   Well then, maybe you’ll choose the Chief Executive next.

B:   I don’t think so.

 What time does the presentation start?

A:   Are you going to the presentation this afternoon?

B:   Well, I’ve got to visit a new client at 1 o’clock but I should be back around 2.30. The presentation’s at 2.45, isn’t it?

A:   No, they’ve just changed it to 1.30.

B:   Oh, no. I’ll call the client and see if he can make it 12 o’clock instead.

 Who is going to meet Mr Jones at the airport?

A:   Mr Jones, Production Manager of our main supplier is arriving at the airport in an hour. We need someone to meet him there because Terry Ashall is off sick today.

B:   What about Katy Coburg? She’s the Assistant Purchasing Officer.

A:   She’s away at a conference. Can you go, Guy? After all you are our Production Supervisor. You’ve met Mr Jones before.

B:   Okay. I’m going now.

 Where are the company headquarters currently?

Welcome to GSandes Group conference here in the future Dubai headquarters. I’m Alex Sandes and, as many of you know, I’m based in Geneva, in Europe, at our headquarters. However, I’m pleased to announce that from next January I’ll be moving here to our new head office. The Montreal office in Canada will remain as a branch office, and we’ll relocate staff to other branches around the world.

6   Why is the company changing its structure?

We’ve decided to change the company structure to make it more efficient, so it’s going to be much flatter than it is now. This is mainly because we’ve had a lot of complaints about incorrect orders and late deliveries. We can stop this if the person who accepts the order is responsible for it right up to the delivery.

 What does the new client produce?

A:   We’re meeting with Gray’s this afternoon.

B:   They’re a new client, aren’t they?

A:   Yes, they’re interested in us doing their marketing.

B:   That’s great. I love those old-fashioned desks they make.

A:   You’re thinking of Gracefield. Gray’s are the briefcase people.

B:   Oh well, anything’s better than the office chairs we had to market last month. It’s not easy to make an office chair interesting.

 When did Paolo join the company?

A:   Hi Paolo, nice to meet you. I’m Clara, Projects Coordinator.

B:   Good to meet you finally, Clara.

A:   As this is your first day here, I’ll introduce you to everyone. And are you free for dinner this evening so you can meet the Project Manager, Gustav Drinkmann?

B:   I already know him.

A:   Do you?

B:   We worked together two years ago. When did he join this company?

A:   Six months ago.

4. Listen to a radio interview. Choose the correct option a, b or c.

 Ungar Travel

      a   has a few travel agencies in towns.

      b   no longer has high street agencies.

      c   started online two years ago.

 The company was unhappy about

      a   losing experienced staff.

      b   firing several older staff.

      c   changing the working hours.

 The company announced that

      a   the travel business was changing.

      b   branch managers were unnecessary.

      c   a new management team would run the company.

4   After the announcement

      a   most staff were unhappy about it.

      b   several managers lost their jobs.

      c   managers were offered training.

5   What was the reaction of non-management staff to having no managers?

      a   At first they were worried about it.

      b   They reported a lot of problems to their managers.

      c   They realised they would be responsible for their own work.

6   The problems of the non-management staff were solved by

      a   creating a flatter structure.

      b   working in teams.

      c   asking people to leave.

7   The feedback on the no-manager structure indicated that

      a   people were unhappy.

      b   staff were generally positive about the company.

      c   productivity was decreasing.

Answer & Audioscript

1 b   2 a   3 b   4 c   5 c   6 b   7 b


I = Interviewer   M = Mike Ungar

Listen to a radio interview.

I:   I’m talking to Mike Ungar, CEO of Ungar Travel, an online travel company. Good evening, Mike.

M:   Good evening, Yolanda.

I:   Now, your company started as a traditional travel agency, didn’t it? But now you’re one of the biggest online companies.

M:   That’s right. We closed our last high-street branch two years ago.

I:   So what did that mean for your staff?

M:   Well, of course it was a shock for many of them. First of all, we spent hours trying to persuade as many of the original staff as possible to stay. But many, generally the older and more experienced ones, unfortunately, didn’t want to change the way they worked so we lost some good people.

I:   And then you made a rather unusual announcement, didn’t you, when you changed the structure of your organisation?

M:   Well, the changing nature of our business meant that we had to change the way we ran the company. First of all, we announced that we no longer needed managers for each branch, so I told them that we wouldn’t have managers anywhere in the organisation.

I:   And how did your staff respond after that announcement?

M:   There was, of course, a very mixed reaction. Some staff were delighted, but the managers were very worried that they’d lost their jobs. I think the most difficult thing was to convince them that we still needed their skills, just in a different way. We offered them all training in the world of internet business and those that took up the challenge have adapted well.

I:   What about the employees who were not managers?

M:   There was quite a strange reaction to the no-manager policy. At first staff thought it would mean that they could do what they liked, but once they realised they had to be their own managers and be responsible for their own decisions and work, we had a few problems. In the traditional structure, non-management staff report to their line manager and if anything goes wrong, it’s the boss’s responsibility. Suddenly people no longer had someone else to blame if things went wrong. Some people just don’t like or want to take responsibility for their work.

I:   How did you overcome the problems with non-management staff?

M:   It wasn’t easy. The new flatter structure involved people working in specialist teams and it soon became obvious when someone was struggling or not working hard enough. For most people, working in a team motivated them and they were all supportive of each other. The ones who didn’t feel comfortable in the teams left the company.

I:   Did that make other people question the no-manager strategy?

M:   Yes, it did but then we all talked about it and I discovered that the majority of people were happy with the new working methods and structure. They were more efficient and productive. The feedback indicated that they loved working for the company and that they really wanted to be there.

I:   Did you find some people wanted to become the leaders of a group?

M:   Yes, but all the team members choose their own team leaders, which avoids the old system where bad managers were recruited by people who are never going to work with them. At least here everyone feels they’ve got control over their own situation.

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