Is there a size-restriction for organizational improvement?

A baby American toad, newly emerged from tadpole stage, about a half-inch long

“You must be at least this tall to ride this ride!” Remember those signs at carnival rides — and the denial, anger, bargaining, and depression that they evoked from children who felt left out because they didn’t quite measure up?

Many people talk as if similar signage guards the entrance to organizational improvement.  [more]

The endless cycle of fire-fighting

How many organizations spend a disproportionate amount of time in “putting out fires” of one sort or another? They always seem to be fighting off some looming disaster from a dauntingly difficult task with insufficient resources (time, money, information) and with dire consequences for failure. A frequent byproduct of continuous fire-fighting is the “tyranny of the urgent”: a near-panic-driven focus on addressing the near term — often with counterproductive consequences.  [more]

What is “Organizational Engineering”?

In some systems-engineering circles, there is a sub-discipline that is labeled as “Enterprise Systems Engineering.” The reasoning is straightforward: an enterprise (company, business, organization) is a sociotechnical system of people, process, and technology. As noted in an earlier posting, we should design, implement, and operate such systems with great care and intentionality, if we are to maximize their desired emergent characteristics and behaviors while minimizing their undesired ones.  [more]

Understanding organizations as systems

I genuinely appreciate the ongoing, vital work of the many individual disciplines that grapple with understanding and improving organizations: Organization Design, Organizational Psychology, Management Engineering, Process Improvement, Quality Engineering, Quality Management, Quality Improvement, Change Management, Project Planning, Project Management, and countless others.

Nonetheless, just reading through that list can bring to mind the parable of “The Blind Men and the Elephant”; each discipline does an excellent job, but on a part, not on the whole.  [more]