I think that there are two kinds of organizations…

I think that there are two kinds of organizations.

Living ones and dying ones.

We seem to have this idea that organizations, especially large ones are around forever, or at least for a very long time, but they are not.  With few exceptions, organizations have a pretty short lifespan.

A big part of what gives an organization life is the nature of its social interactions.  Team meetings, town hall conversations, conversations in the hallway, even the never ending exchange of e-mail…this is where information is shared, meaning is made, decisions are sought and solutions are proposed.  These social spaces, large and small, are also where decisions are made about what really matters and what kind of ideas, information and people are able to enter the organization.  These social intersections are portals between the culture of an organization and the outside world.

Some organizations are very intentional about and take great care of these portals, ensuring that they feed the organization with new information, new ideas, and new people.  Most do not.  In most organizations these interactions become stifled, rigid, cosmetic, political, and the culture starts to stagnate.

The world continues to change, the organization stops changing and its internal narrative becomes increasingly dissimilar to the outside reality.  Competitors can make moves in broad daylight and the organization lacks the ability to respond in any substantive kind of way.

They cannot go meta.

They are not able to have serious conversations about how they have conversations, about how decisions are made, about their culture, the good, bad and ugly.

They say they want to put ideas to work and leverage the unique talents of their workforce, but they do not actually do that and everyone knows it.  They lack the capacity to understand the significance of intangibles.

And they are dying.  Some of them are dying very slowly, but still dying.

What do you see in the social interactions of your organization or community?  Are they vibrant and robust?  Or…

Be good to each other.

6
  1. Andrew S. Dungan

    Metanarrative is probably one of the most productive conversations that an organization can have and most organizations, like you just pointed out, never have these conversations. It’s quite sad. Thanks for the post and the reminder to have these conversations.

  2. Charlie Judy

    i think there are some that are in catatonic state…neither her nor there, stuck in limbo, trying to go one way or another…some desperately wanting to change, some perfectly content with that state.

    love the post!

  3. Scott Meske, CAE

    The challenge is to recognize when your organization stops growing and starts dying; and to be strong enough to start another ‘growing cycle’ before it’s too late…

  4. Lori Rains

    Spot on! The figurative question becomes “which organization are you?” Great insight, Joe. Keep it coming …

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