Organizations are not that different from us, human beings: both are organisms that – as long as they are nourished properly – can survive for a substantial amount of time. Likewise, if you want to make them more attractive, you dress them up; if you want to put them in a competition, you make sure they are lean and fit; and if you want them to be happy, you make sure that they have a purpose.
Many specialists compare the way man-made organizations tend to grow to how ‚biological‘ organisms do: they always are ‚born‘ as a fragile ‚start-up‘ – vulnerable yet determined – in order to begin a life as a firm or business. If they do survive the critical ‚neonatal-phase‘, they will live through several growth phases, just like a natural organism will. Just like any plant will branch out, as soon as it’s growing ‚up‘, also a man-made organization will diversify to keep itself under control: to ensure that the branches do not forget to which ‚plant‘ they belong, any organism is inter-veined by a structure of processes, actions and communication that will transport the purpose throughout the organism.
And if this structure gets disrupted, one could end up with apples growing on a plum…
To maintain oversight is one of the most essential aspects for any organization to survive. If it’s lost, the overall purpose cannot reach the diversified parts and proliferation can occur, leading to disrupted business doing. This proliferation could lead to something interesting, from an external perspective – like a fruit tree, bearing all imaginable varieties – but from an internal perspective it will result into loss of orientation. Under such conditions, truly relevant and highly qualitative products and services cannot be developed and delivered, regardless what they might be. An entrepreneur with oversight will cut down such uncontrolled growth, just like an orchardist would cultivate his trees.
With oversight lacking, rank growth can spread freely, fueled by the absence of common purpose. This can lead to businesses eventually forgetting what they initially promised to their customers and employees. Without a purpose and clear orientation, ‚plums‘ might decide to become ‚apples‘ – and as such destroy the purpose of the plum tree, even though some might enjoy the prospect of this.
And this reflects a problem that many businesses suffer from these days: the disability to structure their organization in such a way that purpose can spread evenly and seamlessly throughout all the ‚branches‘. To improve on this issue, businesses streamline their structures and processes, use new methods [design thinking!] or launch new sub-organizations [incubators!] or they start to cut off branches [often also the one, they are sitting on!] in the hope that common and widespread purpose can be achieved.
What businesses seem to overlook is what creates purpose in the first place, and what will spread it throughout the entire organization – motivated employees!
Organizations, processes and methods are mere technical devices any business just needs, like the tracheas or vessels in a tree. One can improve these by making them more efficient and functional. But like any organism, businesses can only exist on the long run if they have access to rich nutrients. What water – and the nutrients contained therein – is to a plant, employees – and the motivation they carry – are to a business. Without nutrients, organisms cannot persevere.
That’s why farsighted entrepreneurs root their businesses in a ‚soil‘ that is providing the right substance for growth: these are motivated people – employees and customers alike – and a purpose that is a nutrient to all involved.
And if they discover that their ‚harvest‘ is on the decrease they do not blame this purely on the quality of the organization, but aim to improve the quality of the ‚nutrients‘: they will develop the employees’ customer centricity; they will empower them to become self-motivated and agile in adopting and improving their own work space; and they will call to order all those, who instead of being a quality plum, desperately want to become an apple!