Monday, 24 September 2012

The Living Organisation and the concept of Re-creation

This post is about the last book that I read which is titled “The Living Organization” and written by William A. Guillory. I found this book very inspiring and insightful and, although written more than fifteen years ago, very contemporary.

The author develops concepts such as ‘spirituality’, ‘wisdom’ and being an ‘integrated person’ within the workplace. W.A. Guillory describes how these notions are deeply connected with and of great importance for the success of any organisation.

These marginalia are specifically about two of the concepts explained by Guillory in his book:  the notion of “Living Organisations” and the one of “Re-creation”.
“A Living Organisation is one which recreates itself – moment by moment, day by day, year by year, etc. – in response to, or preferably in anticipation of, accelerated internal and external change.”

What does Re-Creation mean?
William A. Guillory writes: “Re-creation is based on the assumption that one moment does not necessarily follow from the previous moment in a continuous, predictable manner. It assumes that an individual or an organisation is free to create each moment that is experienced anew in response to how the external environment is changing. Essentially, once a sequence of events is set into motion, it can be interrupted at any point and a new direction can be established”.

The process of re-creation occurs through continual individual and organisational transformation. Transformation is an irreversible change in being, mindset and behaviour. Such changes commonly result in redefining vision, strategy and performance expectations.
The essence of the re-creation process, continues William A. Guillory, is continually asking the following questions based upon market conditions:
a)      Who are we?
b)      Why do we exist?
c)       What is our defining character or heritage?
d)      What is our vision?
e)      How do we express our vision (in product or services)?
f)       Who is our customer?
g)      How do we continually market and sell our products and services, most effectively?
h)      How do we exceed our customers’ expectations?
i)        What is our most productive system of operation?
j)        How do we continually care for our people?
k)      Do we practice our core values?
l)        Etc.
The answers to these questions provide the impetus for change.

Then, the author writes about the characteristics that Living Organisations have and that can be derived from the four Darwinian principles. In fact, the drive to re-create is similar to the adaptive nature of biological organisms that evolve over time. (I recall the time when I first studied this topic at university in Italy for passing an exam in Sociology of Organisations. I remember I was very fascinated at the time. I am now very glad to get refreshed and to write a marginalia on that).
There are critical characteristics that Living Organisations possess and that come into play when faced with survival or adaptation.

The Four Darwinian Principles of Living Systems – Characteristics for Adaptation:
Like biological systems, re-creation is driven by an innate consciousness for adaptation. The principles of adaptation for Living Organisations are similar in operation to the four Darwinian principles of living systems. Within a specific (or business) system:
1.       All species display natural variation. Businesses selling the same products or services have distinct differences
2.       The number of offspring produced far exceeds the number that will survive into adulthood. In general, eighty per cent of all new businesses are unsuccessful.
3.       Some offspring are better at adapting to their habitat (business environment) than others.
4.       The better adapted organisms transmit part of their adaptation characteristics to their offspring -  A defining character or philosophy that evolves and endures over time.
Then the author explains that by using these principles as a template for successful adaptation, four characteristics follow from each of the statement above and they are: uniqueness; perseverance; acclimation and heritage.
UNIQUENESS : A distinguishing quality that separates an organisation from similar looking competitors.  (e.g. Boeing – “Leading-edge pioneers in aircraft design”; Microsoft – “User-friendly software”; Toyota – “High quality, low-repair automobiles”).
PERSEVERANCE: The will to succeed, no matter what the difficulties or obstacles encountered. (e.g. Boeing – “Succeeding in spite of increasing competition from global aircraft producers”; Microsoft – “Maintaining quality performing products in mass demand”; Toyota – “Succeeding in spite of high import charges leading to increased sticker prices”).
ACCLIMATION: An ability to continually adapt and contribute to the changing business system. (e.g. Boeing – “Design and produce the next generation aircraft to serve a specific market need”; Microsoft – “Introduce Windows 95 and NT” [Please note this book was publish in 1997. However, as the time has passed and the reality has demonstrated, I think we can all agree to say with confidence  that Microsoft still continually adapts and contributes to the changing business system]; Toyota – “Increase quality, lower repairs and maintain high trade-in value”).

 HERITAGE: A defining character or philosophy that is synonymous with an organisation’s people, products and services, and subsequently passed to succeeding generations. (e.g. “The acknowledged leader in aviation”; Microsoft – “Aggressive mass market penetration”; Toyota – “Exceptional quality automobiles and customer service. The relentless pursuit of perfection”).

W. Guillory writes that these are the four critical characteristics a Living Organisation possesses in its own unique manner and that ensure adaptability over time. He finally adds: “They are such an ingrained part of the culture that they are rarely questioned and are simply taken for granted”.

Finally, Guillory explains that Living Organisations endure over time by integrating the building block of adaptation (explained above) with the building blocks of empowerment and high performance.
Further marginalia will follow…