Friday, 17 December 2010

What is & what produces organisational health?

The GFC highlighted that what we measure, for organisational health, determines what we get. As Colin Price, Director, McKinsey & Company, puts it in his Dec 14 2010 blog on MIX: “Focusing exclusively on performance  simply does not produce long-term shareholder value,  sustainable competitive advantage, or an ability to achieve the mandates of the organization in the public sector.”

Price proposes instead that organisational health is: “the ability to get aligned, to execute at a world-class level, and to renew.”  I’ll go for that. Those are the abilities I want, but I’m still left with the problem of what to do to produce that kind of health. 

Achieving that health requires us to see our organisations in a revolutionary new way: not as bureaucratic hierarchical machines but as communities of collaborating people. Seen in that light, the fundamental purpose of all the policies, procedures, systems, processes is to enable, to free people to collaborate better.

Thus organisational health has its roots in the health of the interrelationships between the people that comprise the organisation.  So what are healthy interrelationships and how do you get them?

Some useful perspectives can be drawn from the field of population health: the qualities of interrelationships that produce community wellness and productivity, and conversely illness and dysfunction are fairly well known and are evident, for instance, in the recovery approach to mental illness.

To achieve the kind of organisational health that Price proposes we have to revolutionise the way we see and manage our organisations: the purpose, nature and content of our organisational communication and interrelationships. That requires concerted, deliberate action to change the detail of the way we communicate with each other  at work. 

For more on this see How to Fix a Mental Organisation (December 2009) and my more recent blogs (December 2010).


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