Organizational Excellence through Innovation

September 20, 2010 at 5:04 am | Posted in Blogroll, Organizational Excellence, Systems Thinking | Leave a comment

There are different definitions of organizational excellence. But I would prefer to visualize it in terms of how it feels and what it does.

How it feels: Internally, you get in a state of flow. All friction and wastage is minimized. Externally, your actions are in perfect sync with the needs of the beneficiaries, including yourself.
What it does: Internally, it provides highest productivity possible under the given circumstances. Externally, it leads to the highest level of beneficiary satisfaction, even delight.

Every organization has a “Production system”, which helps streamline routine actions through processes and automation. It is based on standardization and stresses on homogeneity predictability and continuity of what has worked well in the past. It is an essential precondition for organizational excellence; without it, we would be continuously busy fire-fighting one crisis after another.

But is it sufficient? I am afraid not. In my opinion, we also need to take care of another system that every organization has, the “Creative system”. It is based on innovation, which thrives on diversity. It encourages the people involved to try out new ways of doing things even at the risk of failure. It calls for being aware of changes, even proactively, before they actually materialize. It requires that the members of the organization are empowered and allowed to be what they are; which in turn makes them highly motivated to continuously look for opportunities to try out different and better ways to achieve excellence in all spheres of their activity.

These two systems need very different culture, practices and structures. The real challenge is to create the ones needed for innovation so that they can co-exist with those built over time while setting up the standardization. And it needs to happen transparently. If they are seen as two separate systems, there will be confusion and even confrontations amongst the members of the organization. One way could be to keep the “Production” system tentative rather than making it too rigid and allow the “Creative” system to have hooks into it. We will explore this possibility further in future posts.

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