Sunday, January 20

A Good Organization Is Never Done

"A Good House is Never Done," declares iconic interior designer John Wheatman in the title of one of his books. He believes that good homes are always evolving to reflect the changing interests, experiences, tastes, and needs of their inhabitants. The same can be said for good organizations--their leaders never consider them done.

My experience with organizations is consistent with many recent studies of organizational performance--the highest performers never rest on their past accomplishments. They systematically and enthusiastically examine feedback on performance to see how they can improve. They regularly survey their changing internal and external landscapes to discover what has changed and analyze how it might affect them. They scour the horizon to see what might be emerging so they can consider its implications, then move thoughtfully and swiftly to take best advantage. They celebrate accomplishments while simultaneously setting more challenging goals.

Continuous improvement is a way of life in good organizations, not just a slogan. In their quest, they never stray from their organizational dna or "essence" nor from tried-and true principles of change--much in the same way that Wheatman encourages design clients to hold fast to their own sense of style while applying the basic design principles upon which his work is built.

My father instilled in me this achievement perspective. "Forward ever, backward never" became a personal mantra to learn from mistakes yet not become so risk-adverse that nothing new is ever tried. A "mistake" is merely information to use to make wiser choices. Peter Senge's concept of a "learning organization " is the same as what my dad taught me--all data is good if it is used to make smarter mistakes in the future.

Organizations who don't ever see themselves as "done" have a resiliency and continue to improve under conditions in which others struggle. Apply Wheatman's philosophy in your own organization and watch performance soar.

No comments: