Thursday, February 29, 2024

The organisational machine

Sarwar Ahmed
What is an organisation? As you reach for Wikipedia in today’s digital world, you have access to a whole repertory of knowledge for free. An organisation is a social arrangement that pursues collective goals, controls its own performance, and has a boundary separating it from its environment.
An organisation consists of people who are responsible for achieving all the collective goals. To function, an organisation is created with a formal structure that is headed by a leader who should have a thorough knowledge of the functional aspects. Ultimately, he is looked upon to answer queries in running the organisation.
Over time, we assume the organisation will run on well established policies, procedures, its people fitting in seamlessly like cogs in a well oiled machine, producing efficiently and continuously, delivering results.
Beyond the machines that produce or run processes, what we miss out is that it is people whose collective knowledge and skills create a dynamic, living organisation.
Mankind has evolved from living as nomadic tribes to the structured society of today. The lives of our forefathers have left an indelible mark in our genes and our instincts of survival. Modern as we are, we are still “preoccupied with personal security, maintenance, protection, and survival. Now, man spends a major portion of his waking hours working for organisations. His need to identify with a community that provides security, protection, maintenance, and a feeling of belonging continues unchanged from prehistoric times.” (Henry P Knowles, Borje O. Saxberg, in their book, Personality and Leadership Behaviour).
As such, even if we have a well-structured formal organisation, people will fulfil their feeling of belongingness by creating an informal organisation where they belong, feel secure and comfortable. This informal organisation is the actual pulse, the culture of the organisation. People shine and give their best if the formal and informal organisations fit closely, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. How do we make this happen? We first need a paradigm shift in the way we view organisations. An organisation is not a well-oiled machine; it is alive and follows the principles of a living organism.
I am re-producing the following concept of a living system vis-a-vis an organisation by Michelle Holliday of Cambium Consulting. According to her, the pattern of living systems, including organisations, involves four defining characteristics:
1. There are individual parts, people in the organisation, along with their unique contributions. The more divergence, the more the living system will be resilient, adaptive and creative.
2. There is a whole formed in organisations by convergence around a shared purpose, usually service to a customer or community. The more convergence, for example, the more compelling that shared purpose and so the more the organisation remains consistent and recognisable even as individual people come and go, the more the living system will be resilient, adaptive and creative.
3. There is a dynamic pattern of relationship at the physical and conceptual infrastructure of the organisation. The more open and free-flowing the relationships, the more resilient, adaptive and creative the living system will be.
4. There is what biologists call a “self-integrating property”. This means that by itself, the living system integrates divergent contributions into a convergent whole in a dynamic relationship internally and externally, in an ongoing process of self-organisation and self-creation. In other words, it’s what makes the living system alive. That’s life.
When we recognise that organisations follow this four-part pattern of living systems, we see that we need to build the intrinsic capability to: enable individual people within the organisation; engage the loyalty of the customer or community being served; and design an infrastructure that connects and supports the above two things dynamically.
These are the fertile conditions necessary to enable an organisation to thrive at all levels. At face value, this may appear to be nothing new. We have known for decades about the importance of diversity, shared purpose, and team building. But a few things happen when we acknowledge the fourth part of the living systems pattern, life.
First, we begin to add depth, detail and meaning to each of these three strategies, which until now have been applied quite mechanistically and superficially.
Second, we discover a new role for ourselves as hosts or gardeners, creating the fertile conditions for life to do its self-integrative thing, rather than mechanics re-engineering the machine.
Third, we begin to recognise the emergent collective wisdom of the ecosystem that is the organisation, including people within, customers and community. And with this recognition, we can begin to listen for the voice of the whole, even as we honour the needs of the divergent parts.
Finally, we begin to recognise that life is the true bottom line and that contributing to life is our ultimate reason for coming together in organisation. And that changes everything.
Michelle’s view of an organisation as a living system is a fast-forward view of an ideal, an ideal I believe will make organisations thrive as they achieve their goals through their people and keeping their customers and community content and satisfied.

The writer is the managing director of Syngenta Bangladesh.


Via: The Daily Star

Related News

Social media pressure changing news making

Opinion Afsan Chowdhury THE relentless reality of social media has begun to influence news making at several levels. Three social media elements are making these pressures so strong. (a) It reaches consumers almost instantly and in no way can professional media compete with that. (b) Content creators can mix and offer audio-visuals that cost little ... Read more

Securing water for sustainable urban future

Opinion By AKM Mahmudul Haque WATER, the essence of life, is a precious resource that sustains our planet and its inhabitants. Yet, despite the vastness of our oceans, only a small portion of the water is potable. Recent studies have revealed alarming statistics that approximately 80 per cent of the water supplied in cities and ... Read more

We need to transform social norms for gender equality

World Population Day Views Md Nuruzzaman Khan World Population Day, which has been observed on July 11 every year since 1989, holds significant importance in addressing critical population-related issues. This year, the focus is on gender equality, symbolised by the theme of “Unleashing the power of gender equality: Uplifting the voices of women and girls ... Read more

Quality education for all, but quality schools for few?

Views Mohammad Ehsanul Islam Khan Education empowers and shapes nations. Increased enrollment and reading levels in Bangladesh have also enhanced education access. But the focus on quantity has overtaken the drive for quality education, leaving only a handful with access to top-notch universities. According to Dr John Dewey, “Education is not preparation for life; education ... Read more

Equal education leads to a better society

Opinion Mehreen Chowdhury EDUCATION is known to be strongest when voices and diverse perspectives are heard and shared around the community. It is vital that young people are given the space and safety to express them without feeling ashamed. The idea of special education is governed by the concept that education is for all. It ... Read more

Alarming increase in child marriage

Opinion Zillur Rahaman CHILD marriage is one of the social ills in Bangladesh. It was once an epidemic in Bangladesh. It, however, came under control because of various measures and the supervision of the government in the past decade or so, but has been increasing at an alarming rate since the Covid pandemic, which increased ... Read more

Time to prioritise social justice

Views We have the chance to reshape the world we live in – economically, socially, and environmentally. Gilbert F Houngbo May 1 is widely known as International Labour Day, a day when we celebrate the contribution of workers worldwide. It is a moment for pride, celebration, and hope. After three years of the Covid-19 crisis, ... Read more

More heatwaves are coming our way. Are we prepared?

Views While Bangladesh has a lot of experience in tackling cyclones and floods, we have not taken heat stress into consideration until now. Saleemul Huq The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) recently completed its sixth assessment report (AR6), with the Synthesis Report coming out in March. The Synthesis Report carries some key messages about ... Read more

Women must be at the forefront of the transition to a low-carbon economy

Opinion Veronica Mendizabal Joffre and Pinky Serafica Can we truly reimagine a path to a low-carbon transition and change the climate narrative? This is hard to envision when we witness the unprecedented damage we are inflicting on the planet. For women, the effects of climate change are already a lived experience. Where environments are damaged ... Read more

Why collaboration is in our collective interest

ViewsRMG NOTESClimate ActionWithout fashion retailers and their suppliers working together, our industry as a whole will continue to see emissions rising. Mostafiz Uddin According to the latest report of the UN Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the world is likely to fail to reach its most ambitious climate target – limiting global warming to ... Read more

Will our universities survive in 25 years?

Views Syed Saad Andaleeb Quality education is the backbone of a wholesome and prosperous society. But finding the “quality” in quality education continues to be elusive in Bangladesh. The “so called” universities (more like community colleges) are rife with social, economic, political and ideological problems that work against building learning organisations. Teachers, the kingpins, don ... Read more

Can teachers be the pivot of change in education?

Views Manzoor Ahmed “No system of education can be better than its teachers” is an aphorism that remains meaningful. The nostalgic and idealised image of the teacher as a scholar, dispensing knowledge and wisdom to the young selflessly, who lives a simple life with little concern for material rewards and who is looked upon by ... Read more

Climate loss and damage are clearly visible in southwest Bangladesh

Views Ashish Barua, Sawkat Chowdhury The Sixth Assessment Report (AR6) by Working Group I of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) shows that the sea level, over the last 120 years, has increased by 0.20 metres, and continues rising fast, caused by thermal expansion, glacier ice loss, ice sheet loss, etc. The sea level ... Read more

How can Dhaka solve its traffic problem?

Views Debra Efroymson If I had a dollar for every time I’ve heard that “traffic was particularly bad today,” I could have retired already. Over the years, people have hazarded various suggestions as to the cause of the terrible Dhaka traffic and its potential solutions. Causes include: not enough roads for all the cars; poor ... Read more

Celebrating 50 years of global environmental movement

Opinion Saleemul Huq The global environmental movement started in 1972, with the first global environment conference held in Stockholm, Sweden, hosted by then Swedish Prime Minister Olof Palme. Among the heads of governments who also attended was the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi, who famously declared that environment and poverty were two major global issues ... Read more

Saving earth from disasters

Opinion By Md Zillur Rahaman TODAY is World Earth Day. The day is celebrated worldwide each year to show support for the protection of the environment. It was first observed in 1970 and is now held globally by the Earth Day Network. The UN-sponsored conference in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, from June 3 to June 14, ... Read more

Women for women

Opinion Faria Rashid PATRIARCHAL societies like to deceive women into thinking that women cannot get along, work together and stand in support of one another. Given the patriarchal history of society, it has mostly worked to keep women in their places and apart from each other. This is why we hear so much about women ... Read more

CSR and a new order of business

From being seen as mere philanthropy and ‘doing good’, corporate social responsibility is now at the heart of business sustainability and ethical and accountable corporate behaviour Bitopi Das Chowdhury CSR or corporate social responsibility has been a buzz phrase for quite some time now. Not a day goes by without it being mentioned, albeit in ... Read more

Harmful impacts of cartels on consumers

Munshi Abdul Ahad A cartel is an anti-competitive arrangement between two or more competing businesses. Anticompetitive agreements, particularly cartels, harm consumers in urbanised society, as well as in the emerging countries. In adding together, cartelised industrial sectors lack competition which certainly reduces competitiveness in the long run and may have a negative impact on the ... Read more

How to troubleshoot the economy

Sadiq Ahmed Bangladesh is facing serious macroeconomic challenges and I have written a lot explaining them in a series of articles published in The Daily Star and in The Financial Express. In this new article I am going to write specifically about how Bangladesh could address those challenges while also mobilising substantial external financing in ... Read more