Inter-organization Design – 3

Several organizations are facing an environment that is increasingly difficult. The reality of this time is known as VUCA environment. VUCA stands for Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous. If you want to learn an approach that helps organizations solve challenges in these VUCA times, don’t miss our webinar on Positive Participative Innovation, developed and presented by Don, Doug and Bernard. More information here

This article is part of a series of reflections on the Global Network Annual Conference. To view the previous article, click here.

Let me precede my little commentary by stating that I am an INFJ according to the Myers-Briggs personality type. So I’m a ‘big feeler’. When I’m at conferences I learn by observation. I watch for the passion, motivation, and dedication in individuals.

And so it was with great interest that I was listening to one of our colleagues who had been involved with companies that were responsible for the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico several years ago. He spoke about how affected he was by both the disaster and by the lack of responsibility of some of the companies. He mentioned that his grand-parents had taught him that we do not own the land but are stewards of it. It made him upset knowing that these corporations were more interested in serving their self-interests then to serve the common good.

I’ve thought about that presentation several times since the STS conference in September. I do realize that it is important for corporations to protect their identity. Thousands of investors, employees, and communities depend on their existence. But as our colleague said in his presentation it would have been so much more honorable and upright had they taken responsibility from the very beginning rather than pointing fingers at prolonging the legal process.

In evading responsibility corporations evoke wariness and distrust regarding corporations. Once again the public looks at them as being very much self-serving. Unfortunately these corporations don’t realize that there is a stigma that goes forward with them; who will not associate BP as a culprit in the future-one only has to check the Internet to what is considered the “BP oil spill.” They’re not doing themselves or their stakeholders any service.

Recently I was rereading Chris Argyris’ work on Espoused Values and Theories-in-use. I’m sure many leaders in the above companies meant well but did not come through for the greater good. In my estimation, this may be caused by the leadership in corporations and possibly in the way they are structured. The way some corporations are run diminishes the role of values and affects the overall well-being of individuals. Unfortunately employees are too caught up in survival mode to take stock, often not having many other options.

But are they proud? I don’t know about you but I become passionate when I see organizations that have a meaningful mission-vision, produce for the common good, and go beyond the call of duty. For those organizations I will give 100%, with conviction and pleasure.  That’s how organizations did it in the past. Could we re-instill these values?

Although I am relatively new to STS, I trust that one of the components of redesign is to revisit and elaborate the core values in organizations through meaningful and relevant mission-visions.

Andy Malolepszy,

HSI 2003

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