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Views from the Prairie

September 2023

Is The Organization Correct?

Do you ever wonder why this meeting even was called? Is that pad of paper filled with doodles? So many times, a meeting is set up and it continues to meet long after its purpose is over. In the same way, much of corporate organization persists long past it's "due date". Some people even consider the organization more important than the people it is supposed to be serving. It can be time to blow up the organization structure and find new ways of getting things done.

Some people love that they are running meetings and keep them going long past their prime. Other organizations (especially religious organizations) almost ask people to worship the structure and subordinate everything to serving keeping the organization going. The original goals people had when building the organization get subsumed into just serving the organization.

Just because an organization has been in existence for years or centuries doesn't mean that it is the correct organization for today nor does it mean that people in the organization are correctly guiding it. Just because "that is the way we have always done it," doesn't mean that the organization is correctly structured or serving the correct people.

Sometimes, it can be very difficult to ask people to consider changing how to organization is functioning. Yet, unneeded meetings, ossified business structures, and outdated reports are not helping the real goals of the organizations. Restructuring, moving people around, and pushing people out of the office into the field can all be ways to reconnect people with the real purpose of the organization.

Organizations exist to serve people, not to have people serve it. When an organization has been successful for a while, there are two things that happen. One, it attracts those who want to use that success for their own purposes instead of what the organization was supposed to be doing. Secondly, the environment in which the organization exists changes and sometimes radically. When the environment changes radically, we often need to radically change the organization so that it can achieve its goals in this new environment.

Blowing up the organization can be done quickly or more deliberately. We can do it from the top down or work to pull people together to figure out what most of them need in this new environment.

When an organization is blown up quickly, the process often leaves shocked people behind. The shock can result in vastly diminished productivity and a great loss of institutional knowledge as many smart people leave. Blowing an organization up quickly can result in the people you want to keep leaving and those you wanted to leave staying but being less productive than before.

Competition is changing daily and we need to often rethink not just what we are trying to do, but what structures we are using to get that done.

The organization is not always correct.

Past results no guarantee of future

During World War II, some Pacific Islanders experienced both Japanese and Allied soldiers using their islands and sharing their material wealth. Once the war was over and the soldiers left, some islanders tried to bring back the wealth by cutting new landing strips in the jungle and imitating people in control towers. It didn't work. What worked in the past often doesn't work again in the future and efforts to make it work can prevent future success.

The past can imprison the future. What we have done in the past can hem in our options for the future, set a precedence, or make us think that because it succeeded then, it should work again when it was only luck. As human beings, we naturally see causation in many cases when it was just luck.

Many people fail to recognize how much success is based on luck. We like to think that our smarts, our harder work, or our better management made the success. A study of many organizations has shown that the vast majority of success is due to luck. People attempt to repeat what they did in the past not realizing just how much luck gave them success and wonder why they don't have the same outcome.

To succeed over and over again often means watching for the luck and radically changing things when we perceive luck is happening again. It means doing hard work to prepare for luck and learning how to spot luck.

It is possible to destroy luck. We can take actions to prevent our organization from being able to radically change. We can believe that what worked in the past is the only way and actively work against those who would change things. We can make life unbearable for those who are different. All these are ways to destroy luck and our ability to perceive when luck is happening.

Risky World

The financial technology company Prime Trust managed to lose the hardware key to its own cryptocurrency wallet making it unable to access $45 million. That was one factor in the company going bankrupt.


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