Baldrige Winner Continues To Grow
Events: Two Weeks To Dramatic Process Improvement
If your organization checked in for a physical exam, what
would the tests show? Irregular heart beat (or none at all)? Clogged arteries?
Cancer? Would your workplace be given a clean bill of health or immediately
checked into Intensive Care?
1. Learning: The ability to learn & adapt to changes
in the environment.
Things my primary care physician didn't know: The Ecology section includes a chapter entitled "The Corporate Immune System." A risk of tolerance and openness is the stress that can result when the corporate immune system fails to cope with "intruders" which inevitably will come. Acquisitions and mergers are often like infections, causing the corporate body to go into resistance mode. Temperatures rise, much like a fever. He cites a study of 2700 U.S. corporate mergers and acquisitions which found a failure rate of between 50 and 75 percent ("failure" means "disposal.")
And I didn't even know I was sick: This book is worth the
price if just for the Foreword, written by Peter Senge. He begins by crediting
de Geus with introducing him to the concepts of organizational learning.
Then he commences to dismantle the machine metaphor, suggesting that we
tend to adopt it without thought and become what we think we are. He provides
a sobering opinion: "... most large, apparently successful corporations
are profoundly unhealthy. (The members experience it) as work stress, endless
struggles for power and control, and the cynicism and resignation that result
from a work environment that stifles rather than releases human imagination,
energy and commitment. The day-to-day climate of most organizations is probably
more toxic than we care to admit."
Lasting Impression: This book is for anyone who senses that the machine metaphor doesn't serve us. Through personal and other stories de Geus helps us move from a general and academic concept toward a more pragmatic approach to building a living company - not because it is a nice thing to do but because knowledge has displaced capital as the scarce production factor. Knowledge is the new key to corporate success, and we must create environments that attract, develop and retain the people in whom the knowledge or potential for knowledge resides.
Reviewed by Paul Anderson, Leadership Center West, San Carlos, Calif.