We all see organisations through different lenses. One commentator says that organisations are all about the people (‘our greatest asset’) a second will attribute success to efficient processes (‘a well-oiled machine’) others seek gifted and heroic leaders (overpaid but ‘worth it’).
Meanwhile, sustained organisational success remains elusive: experience suggests that very few of today’s FTSE 100 companies will be in existence, never mind successful, in 30 years’ time.
In recent blogs I’ve been looking at how the models in our heads determine the way we manage our organisations and how we address their problems. I’m not arguing that any particular model is ‘right’ or ‘wrong’. But (to paraphrase Stafford Beer) some may be more useful than others and being aware of the model we use and opening ourselves up to other possibilities might give us an advantage in the tough world of organisational survival. In this blog I will explore a model (of organisations as systems) that offers richer possibilities for problem-solving and has the additional advantage of allowing the organisation to shift the focus from problem solving to the realisation of potential. Continue reading →
In my previous blog I suggested that we are guided more than we may realise by the mental model we have about how our organisation works. We deal with reality by conceptualising it, by creating a framework for interpreting and managing it: we do this in our organisations as we do with life in general. I invited you to consider what your model might be and whether it is hindering or helping you.
The problem that immediately arises is that our models are usually held largely unconsciously and reveal themselves as the assumptions we implicitly make about how things should be done. These assumptions may become more apparent (and thus, open to challenge) if we see how they manifest themselves in practice. So I thought I would offer some sample solutions to the two common organisational problems I mentioned in the last blog but did not discuss further. Perhaps some will ring bells with you. Continue reading →
The Church of England has recently published five reports outlining what it plans to do to respond to the reality of serious and prolonged numerical decline in attendance, under the overall title of Reform and Renewal. I am both encouraged and relieved that the Church has recognised the need to take urgent and serious action to counter five and a half decades of sustained reduction in the number of people attending Church. Continue reading →
Is it better to run an organisation well, or badly? Is it better to think and plan or hope for the best? Is it better to help leaders lead better, or simply leave them to it?
I’m assuming these questions have self-evident answers: it is better to lead an organisation well, think and plan and help leaders get better. But how can these things be achieved? Does business know best? Continue reading →
It’s a posh term but it describes something we see in organisations from businesses to the Church – and it can be fatal! Autopoiesis refers to the ability that organisms have to reproduce themselves. This is a good thing (without it we wouldn’t be here!) – but if it gets out of control (becomes pathological) it can have the paradoxical effect of destroying life. E.g. cancer.
The term has a special meaning in the world of organisations and, posh as it may be, it refers to a phenomenon we see a lot. Organisations start with a clear sense of having a purpose in the world, whether it is to make widgets or end poverty. Over time, however, the organisation takes on a life of its own to the point where it becomes mostly interested in itself. If you’ve ever spent hours on the phone trying to get some sense out of customer service you will have experienced this. The organisation tells us and tells itself it is there to serve the customer but actually it is interested in itself, its systems, its convenience. Its computer says no. Continue reading →
It is hard to create large scale sustainable change in organisations. You are up against ingrained cultural habits and assumptions, internal political interests and a lot of anxiety – and that’s before you think about the threats and opportunities beyond the organisation itself and the technical challenges involved. If you are going to do it, you’ve got to give it your best shot.
Today I accidentally rang my best client at 2.30 in the morning local time. Oops. The response? She laughed groggily, I laughed and apologised, said I’d go, but she insisted on spending 20 minutes talking about the issues I’d rung her to discuss. I do not suggest that I have any expectation that my clients should welcome such calls, but the incident is, nonetheless, revealing. It made me think about the relationships I aim to build with my clients and the qualities I look for in them. Continue reading →
In the Church Times last week Martyn Percy criticised the Church’s use of ‘secular models of organisation” under the headline ‘It’s not an organisation, it’s the Body of Christ’. (See: http://goo.gl/EznDGa for the original article – you may need to be a subscriber to read it in full) Here is my response, which may or may not also appear in the letters column of the Church Times!
The first thing is to say that if the use of organisational thinking indeed results in the intrusion of a rootless commercialism, over-simplification of complex ideas, an instrumental culture of objectives and results or a tendency to bureaucracy then I don’t want it either. I share the concern that there is already too much bureaucracy: this, to me, is an example of how the Church is adept at borrowing the less appropriate and attractive features of the secular world! The Church can feel over-administered and under-powered as a result. This can be remedied partly by a renewal in spiritual practice and in theology – but also by a richer understanding of the learning that is around about organisations. Continue reading →
“The difficulties facing the Church create heavy daily burdens and dilemmas for those whose task it is to lead the Church. There is a cost associated with the confusion and uncertainty that exists. Continue reading →