My Point of View

Keeping Organizations Healthy

Organizations of any kind, like humans, are “alive” and  dynamic and therefore require nourishment and occasional visits to doctors to thrive. “Nourishment” for an organization can include:

  • A clear sense of what is important (ie.,what it is seeking to achieve and why), how it is going after its goals (normally termed “strategy”), what it has to work with to be successful (its know-how, resources, reputation, and momentum), acceptable “rules of engagement” for employees vis a vis their colleagues, their work, and the organization’s customers.
  • Deliberate caring toward the employees that is oriented to what’s important to them (including: meaningful work, respect from bosses and other employees, reasonable discretion to do their jobs, recognition for achievement and effort, fair compensation, awareness of what is going on in the organization as it seeks to achieve its goals, the means to communicate their ideas and responses to organizational life, fair compensation, and prospects for further advancement).

“Doctor Visits” by an organization can include assessments of how the organization is functioning and how the employees are faring(learned from various organizational assessment studies and surveys); as well as occasional “renewals” of the organization’s spirit, structure, behavior norms, priorities, processes and procedures—that involve employees at all levels in discussions about those topics and what could be better.

Of course, the elements of “nourishment” and “doctor visits” need to be done within the constraints of economic reality.

In both nourishment and doctor visits,  it is vital that employees’ heads and hearts are appealed to. In that spirit, the chances to strengthen employee engagement and build overall organization performance will be greatly enhanced.

To learn more about improving any organization’s health, read my new book The Soul of the Organization which provides a framework and many illustrations on this topic.


Why did I write this book?

Many of my colleagues have asked what motivated me to write this book.

With the world so filled with struggles, tensions, contending viewpoints and rivalries, bleak prospects, complexities, and unfulfilled hopes, I wanted to contribute to better outcomes in ways available to me as a counselor to organizations.

A high percentage of all working individuals in the world are employed by some kind of organization. Employees devote a large part of their waking hours and much of their adult years to work. Sadly, as various studies over the years have shown, a high percentage of workers at all levels are under-fulfilled, insecure about their employment, lack sufficient meaning or satisfaction from their work—and don’t engage or contribute to their organizations nearly as much of their wit and energies as they are able. In turn, their organizations under-perform their potential—often notably. Operating in increasingly competitive and dynamic markets, under-performing organizations are likely to have to struggle harder and harder to fulfill their purposes for being, meet the needs of their customers and other stakeholders, access resources, and remain competitive and self-sustaining.

Why don’t leaders and managers do better? Managing organizations of people effectively (at any level) has long proved to be highly challenging everywhere because of: the complexities and dynamic qualities of interpersonal relationships among their employees, and between employees and themselves as managers; the difficulties of trying to develop and apply general policies and processes to guide, motivate, and control employees who behave largely according to their own individualized preferences, circumstances, and needs; the general inabilities of humans to communicate well enough with (large numbers) of others—many of whom are located elsewhere and do not have sufficient opportunities to request follow-up clarifications and test their understandings; the insensitivities, limited awareness, inexperience, lack of caring, or conflicting priorities of managers can prevent them from addressing employees’ needs and preferences; and likewise, the challenges for managers at all levels to constantly confront  multiple and oft-times shifting demands in their jobs with their limited bandwidth.

To date, those who lead and manage in organizations, and those who observe and offer counsel and education to the organizations, and to future generations of leaders and managers, have relied largely on experimentation to find new and better approaches to leading, managing, and organization development; learning best practices from anywhere in the world from those who appear to have figured out effective approaches; and formulating new, well thought-out approaches intended to overcome the limitations of existing practices.

I view this book, The Soul of the Organization, as a “capstone” to my long career as first an academician and then for decades as a management consultant, board member, management educator to multinational companies, and volunteer for not-for-profit organizations. The book encompasses best practices and my relevant formulations. My intent is to convey an insight I have nurtured for years while consulting organizations that seeks to answer the question: how best to appeal to both the intellects and the emotions of employees so they will find high levels of meaning, pride, identification, and satisfaction in their workplace and in their work—and, in turn to give their work, colleagues, and place of work their best efforts, wit, and goodwill on a sustained basis.

The Soul of the Organization uses 11 case studies I developed among high-performing, respected businesses, not-for-profit organizations, and a public sector agency to illustrate the concepts I believe will go a long way in meeting the challenges, complexities, tensions, disappointments, and under-performance that exist in contemporary organizational life.

I hope you will find what you are looking for in “The Soul of the Organization”.