This is the first in a planned series of posts exploring the logic and inherent order of organizations. Very little of this material has been previously published.
The incomparable Peter Drucker in 1974 wrote: “Our children will have to learn organizations in the same way our fathers had to learn farming.” If anything, he understated the matter; we are still, 40 years later, learning about organizations.
Farming may look like a simple matter: Prepare ground, plant crops, harvest, sell, repeat. But as any real farmer can tell you, if that’s all you know about farming you are guaranteed to fail. Likewise organizations can look to be a simple matter: Create a needed product or service, offer it on the market, sell at a profit, repeat. Some legislators are very fond of this view and suggest it as the model for all organizations. But again, if that simple market-based model is all you know about organizations, you are guaranteed to fail. Organizations come in many different forms, and what works for one form – the market-based for-profit organization, for example – can be devastating for another.
Every organization is a unique and distinctive configuration of people in relation to their world. Depending on the organization’s specific purpose for existence, the value it sets out to create, for whom, by whom, in what working relationships and by which specific means, an inherent order emerges. This inherent order establishes a kind of logic for the organization, defining specific bounds on what actions are appropriate or inappropriate, required or optional, allowed or forbidden, expected or surprising, relevant or irrelevant. Continue reading The “On-Behalf-of” Organization