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What These 5 Systems Of The Body Can Tell Us About Organizations

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What These 5 Systems Of The Body Can Tell Us About Organizations

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Trying to understand how organizations work is a topic of many books and articles. As these authors point out, each organization has distinct strengths, limitations, and unique processes for providing products, technology, and services. An organization may be defined as two or more people focused toward common goals. Yet as organizations become larger, the focus toward the common organizational goals becomes more departmentalized and less organizationally focused. To lose sight of the organizational goals in favor of day-to-day performance and money is a predicament for leaders. The lack of common direction causes organizations to lose time, money and customers.

Trying to understand how organizations work is a topic of many books and articles. As these authors point out, each organization has distinct strengths, limitations, and unique processes for providing products, technology, and services. An organization may be defined as two or more people focused toward common goals. Yet as organizations become larger, the focus toward the common organizational goals becomes more departmentalized and less organizationally focused. To lose sight of the organizational goals in favor of day-to-day performance and money is a predicament for leaders. The lack of common direction causes organizations to lose time, money and customers.

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What These 5 Systems Of The Body Can Tell Us About Organizations

  1. 1. What These 5 Systems of The Body Can Tell Us About Organizations Rex Gatto Ph.D., BCC Trying to understand how organizations work is a topic of many books and articles. As these authors point out, each organization has distinct strengths, limitations, and unique processes for providing products, technology, and services. An organization may be defined as two or more people focused toward common goals. Yet as organizations become larger, the focus toward the common organizational goals becomes more departmentalized and less organizationally focused. To lose sight of the organizational goals in favor of day-to-day performance and money is a predicament for leaders. The lack of common direction causes organizations to lose time, money and customers. The human anatomy, with its various parts sustaining the whole body, can teach us many lessons as to how individual departments within an organization can sustain that organization and create success. Nature teaches that our bodies, while made up of different systems, must work in sync. Leaders need to communicate everyday how the departments are in sync to sustain the whole and help to achieve organizational goals. If the systems within the body do not work in sync, the health of the body is in jeopardy. Just as the body has systems, so too do organizations have departments, which can sustain or hinder the organization, causing success or failure. The body is made up of systems that together maintain the health of the body. These major systems are: circulatory, digestive, endocrine, exocrine, lymphatic, muscular, nervous, renal, reproductive, respiratory, and skeletal. We will metaphorically use five of these body systems to illustrate how an organization needs its systems to work together for its organizational health. These five systems are: circulatory, respiratory, skeleton, digestive, and nervous.
  2. 2. • The circulatory system is needed for the flow of blood, oxygen, and nutrients throughout the entire body: • The respiratory system breathes life into the body; • The nervous system transmits signals to and from different parts of its body (detects environmental changes that impact the body); • The digestive system involves the breakdown of food into smaller and smaller components, until it can be absorbed and assimilated into the body; • The skeleton system gives structure to the body. The purpose of these bodily systems working together is to keep the body healthy and able to meet the challenges of daily life. An organization also needs to have its systems working in sync to meet its challenges of daily business. Systems are a group of elements that individually establish relationships inside (leaders) while interacting outside (customers). Like the systems of the body, an organization has systems that cause it to a live healthy life or die. If one of the systems begins to fail, it puts pressure on the other systems and can cause the entire body (organization) to go into trauma and spiral down to death. The human body is sturdy yet vulnerable to many diseases and potentially unknown accidents. Organizations are also vulnerable to uncharted economic plights and uncountable poor leadership choices and decisions that can cause organizational death. A healthy body has a working balance, a homeostasis that can support each of its systems. When working in concert, this equilibrium may maintain a healthy, flexible, and clear thinking body. When the systems of an organization are balanced and working in sync, the organization can maintain a participative, productive, and profitable organization filled with motivated employees and satisfied customers. System 1: Circulatory = Communication: Flow of Information The cardiovascular system is like the communication system of an organization. Like blood carrying nutrients to all parts of the body, so does communication carry information to all parts of the organizational structure. If blood flow is cut off to any part of the body, it will begin to atrophy and die. So too will an organization. Communication is the lifeblood of an organization just like blood is needed in each and every part of the body. Leaders need to be visible and communicate throughout the organization, which in turn creates a healthier organization. Leaders need to communicate like a healthy heart, constantly pumping the organization full of information. The healthy organization always focuses on these constant and consistent formal lines of communication, which are far superior to the grapevine information. System 2: Respiratory = Innovation: Breathing New Life Breathing life into an organization is a great metaphor for meeting customer demands. The respiratory system helps to breathe life into the body: customer demands when met can breathe life into the organization. Meeting customer demand causes organizations to be profitable. Profitability is an outcome of doing the right things. Profitability numbers help to tell
  3. 3. the story of how an organization is meeting customer demands, continuing to evolve and develop, and thereby being on track for continual change. Meeting customer demands works in sync with employees for filling responsibilities and eliminating unwanted product, service and technology. Peter Drucker once said that every product and service that an organization utilizes should be put on trial for its life once a year. All organizational leaders should heed his message. Meeting customer demands and needs is the essential breath of an organization. Leaders who have their organizations generate new and different products, services, and technology can drive their organization to acquire new customers and drive new technologies. This new breath of life can be a harbinger of success and profitability. The pitfall of an organization may be the breathing of stale, smoky, recycled air rather than breathing new fresh air. New fresh air will generate new ways of imagining and executing, thus allowing new technologies, products, and services to materialize. System 3: G.I. Digestive System = Motivation: Effort, Desire, and Attitude Food providing energy to the body is analogous to employees giving energy to an organization. Employees sustain an organization through the fulfillment of job responsibilities, quality of work, and performance. The food to the body is like the employee to the healthy work environment. A healthy work environment is based on the retention of qualified, hard-working employees in every job and level. Another essential part of the digestive system is an elimination of waste. The body teaches us to get rid of waste to maintain a healthy body and healthy organizations cannot sustain themselves with a build-up of waste (people, products, and service). Waste can be an organization's outdated technology, products, and services that do not meet customer needs and a sales and marketing effort that does not support customer development. Just as the body has to make way for new food on a daily basis, organizations have to create change in people, technology, products, and services on a daily, monthly and yearly basis. Competition, change, and customer demands create a requirement for new energy levels. Competition validates the market(s) an organization is in. Customer demands keep driving change in the market, and competition and the requirements of competition continue to change. Just as the body needs to have energy to continue, so does an organization need energetic change to meet customer demands. Educating employees and retaining the right employees in a continual updating process will eliminate the old thinking and lead to new thinking that is crucial to maintain market share and support an organization that can thrive. Market share and profitability are energy outcomes of doing and taking the right actions. System 4: Nervous System = Leadership: Inspiring Employees to Follow The Nervous System consists of the brain and spinal cord that control and coordinate most functions of the body and mind. Impulses from sense organs travel to the nervous system and create impulses to muscles and glands. The Nervous System is the Brain of the Body just as leaders are the Brains of the Organization. The brain directs every action, reaction, and behavior of the body the same as organizational leadership drives every action, reaction and supported behavior in an organization. The nervous system lets the entire body know how things are going: so too, the leadership in an organization guides all the employees and communicates how things
  4. 4. are going. Just as nerves spread throughout the body so should leadership spread throughout an organization by being visible. Leaders need to be communicative, inspirational, knowledgeable, compassionate, confident, creative, and facilitative, having employees want to follow them. Leaders need to be encouraged to run an organization on all levels. Potential leaders need to be exposed like raw nerves creating feelings throughout the organization. Leaders should have a systemic process of identifying new leaders (succession) throughout the entire organization and in all areas. Leaders need to be found and exposed on all levels and in every area to administrate, coordinate, and benefit the employees, and create organizational growth. System 5: Skeletal System = Design: of the Organizational Alignment The skeletal system creates the design of the body. An organizational chart (employee alignment) constructs the design for an organization. The organizational structure gives shape to the organization as to how it will function in each department and as a whole. A bodily skeleton defines it size as large or small, whether it is agile or clumsy, strong or weak. Organizations go through an aging process just like people. As people age, they can become smaller, stiffer and weaker; in many cases, aging products and services within an organization can become less productive, competitive, and profitable. Organizations are often described as flexible, fluid, organic, or structured, hierarchical, and machine like. The longevity of an organization depends on the parts and how it is designed. How many corporations live beyond 100 years? Few people make it past 100 years of age and even fewer companies do so. Procter & Gamble and GE are the exception. Fitness and structure play a key role in the longevity of an organization as they do in the body. The two main drivers for organizations going out of business are lack of technological advances and poor leadership decision-making. Examples of lack of technology advances leading to corporate demise include Kodak and Encyclopedia Britannica. Poor leadership decision-making caused Zenith, Eastern Airlines, and Westinghouse to fail. The new phenomena are the multitude of Internet organizations that have created immediate success and great wealth. Technology, robotics, pharmaceuticals, and Internet related products have created the new dynamic structure: is your organization able to change to new opportunities? It can if its organization structure is healthy, agile, and able to support the exterior frame of the organization itself. Summary The systems analysis is an innovative conceptual approach on how an organization needs to be thought of as a living and breathing organism. With the advent of reorganization, reengineering, improvement processes, and SAP, too many organizations are forgetting the relationship needed for one part of an organization to the other parts, and its dependency on those other parts. No one system of an organization is more important. If an organization is going to go into a change process, all people need to be involved. One failing that is continually observed is that people in leadership positions are not true leaders because they lack the understanding of synergism among people, products and services. Many organizations accept mediocrity as the norm and do not try to excel. Money may be earned quickly but without an understanding of organizational behavior and longevity.
  5. 5. An organization that wants to go through an improvement process but only includes the executives and not the implementers of the process is encouraging failure. This is foolish and unwise. A system failure anywhere hurts an organization everywhere. Likewise, to enhance one area without enhancement in another area may not benefit the entire organization. An organization is made up of many parts just like the human body and if any one of those parts fail and is not addressed effectively by leadership, the organization will begin a downward spiral. Examples of today’s organizational death spirals are utility companies that put people on hold for an hour, hospitals with customers leaving the emergency rooms because the wait was over four hours, banks being far less than customer focused, pharmaceuticals being reprimanded for charging outlandish prices. The organizational body is out of sync and disconnected. Enhancing and/or consolidating purchasing when manufacturing is failing doesn't support a healthy organization. Demoting the manufacturing executive when there is no marketing or sales approach to bring in new customers in is without reason; implementing the reengineering approach without effectively listening and getting input from executives, managers and employees is without logic. Organizations need to be thought of as independent systems that come together in an interdependent way to create and support their own bodily health. Utilize the 5-Systems Conceptual Approach to create a new organizational focus and change process. The circulatory system creates blood flow: find ways to effectively communicate the leadership message. The respiratory system breathes life into the body: find new business opportunities. The nervous system transmits signals to and from different parts of its body: detect environmental changes that impact the organization, encourage leaders to actually lead. The digestive system involves the breakdown of food: keep the nutrients and remove toxins (old products, services and incompetent people) in the organization. The skeletal system gives structure to the body: the organization has to create the right alignment. While each has a different function, the purpose of these bodily systems working together is to keep the body healthy and able to meet the challenges of daily-life and work-life. Organizations need only follow the lessons of the body to create and maintain a healthy, forward-thinking organization. Rex Gatto Ph.D., BCC President Gatto Associates LLC. 412 344-2277 (Office) www.rexgatto.com rex@rexgatto.com

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