OPD Articles / First things first


First things first

Dr Graham Little PhD AFNZIM MInstD MNZIC

Somewhere amid the clatter and clamour of culture the poor organization has been forgotten or perhaps better described as lost. Likely you unclear on what I mean, so I will make it plain: The organization is a 'thing' separate from people. The consequences of the organization being separate from people are very, very important. It is through the set up of the organization - independent of people - that the 'direction' is set for every person in the business; it is via the set up that organization development proceeds via aligning of minds; and by effective management of both establishing direction and organisational development politics are moderated and the business develops a more effective performance culture; and directly arising from the separation of people and organization is the proposition there is only one business culture, that is a culture of success and performance. That's a lot arising from what is really a very simple idea, but then that is what happens when you get the thinking right.

I have discussed the importance of transparencies as the way human 'see' things. And how if the content of the transparency - the model or theory - is wrong, or is not as effective as it should be, then we 'see' things less effectively. The problem is we may not know we are being less effective than we could be, we may not know we are not seeing things clearly and this problem is certainly compounded if we are told by so-called experts that how we currently 'see' things is the right way or if everyone sees things the same way as we do. This is the problem of being first to really understand something, that is when the reality of human habit and conservatism really emerges and hammers home just how hard it can be to shift minds.

First rule: Get the concept right.

Many, many businesses have existed for several decades; a business can own things -but not people, so the business cannot own any 'human capital' - the business pays tax, and can be sued, and has general obligations independent of people. All of these arguments point to the reality of the organization being separate from people, people come and go, but the organization continues and exists often doing much the same, despite the people being totally different. It seems bit obvious to me: The organization is a 'thing' separate from people.

Why has it been so difficult to forge this separation when does seem so obvious? The academics are very, very mixed on the issue with many authors stating that the business is the people, and the organization - as I call it - has no existence separate from people, that culture is all, and is all the business is. Hence the modern concern even pre-occupation with 'culture'. There are several very good intellectual reasons: First, 'management' and 'organization' are treated as if they stand separate from social science; this has enabled discussion of these topics without the concern of relating them back to more fundamental issues. Second, even if they were related back to social science, to then project the organization separate from people leaves open the serious question of 'what then is an organization?' I have the simple reply 'an organization is an idea that shapes human behavior'. This reply however raises many, many questions for academics, since they are very reluctant to make such statements because 'ideas' are not yet accepted as causal in human mood and conduct. This is not an issue in my view, since I have a general theory of psychology that resolves all underlying social science issues1 .

I do not want to go further into the philosophy and underlying intellectual issues, just far enough to show it is deep but it is crucial. You need understand enough to have confidence in what you are being offered, and what is offered here as the basis of OPD rests of very solid foundations; it is really science, and not just another set of opinions to be superseded next year. To summarize what is established is:

  • Everyone uses transparencies as the way they 'see' things.

  • The quality of the thinking - what is on the transparency - will determine the effectiveness of the actions. So get the concept right first, sound thinking leads best to sound and most effective action.

  • Management science (so called) and organization theory to date has operated as if it was outside social science, so managers, like you, have been bombarded with decades of intellectually inadequate nonsense. Little wonder 'theory' in management is so disrespected.

  • To build more effective management theory - and every manager uses 'theory' - demands we begin at the beginning and build steadily, with certainty, from the ground up.

    The real starting point is with a general theory of psychology, and general theory of cause, with emergent general theory of knowledge, and very tight and thoroughly understood relationships between these theories: I have done the work (see footnote 1). So first things have been done first, and we have a sound and thorough starting point. An organization is an idea separate from and independent of people.

    Now you are going to be amazed at the ramifications of this simple idea, this new, factually accurate, and scientifically systematic starting point. I will elaborate in following articles but for now I will summarize for you the practical things that emerge directly from this new start point.

  • That part of the organization separate from people I call the architecture. We can now identify those parts of the architecture that will most impact staff behaviours and then focus management effort on managing those things so that human performance in the organization improves.

  • The business strategy dominates the architecture. The organization structure is then the means whereby the multiplicity of goals within the strategy is distributed to ensure effective cooperation.

  • Do you know of any organization set up to fail? It follows that the implicit value of an organization, independent of people, is to be successful and this is the single most important value in the organization (this calls to question, for example, spending money on 'mission and values' workshops when we already know the nature of the cultural values needed.)

  • That the first thing management needs to do is to thoroughly set up the architecture. Then populate that architecture with suitably skilled people.

  • Human resources policy describes how the resources owned by the organization are to be distributed to the population (the staff). In effect HR Policy becomes the 'bill of rights' for the population.

  • Due the goal<=>action principle there are ideal behaviours in every role; these ideals are derived from the KPIs that dominate every role. This means that if the strategy is to be achieved then there are actions that must be acted out with commitment and diligence.

  • Performance becomes delivery of ideals, while success is achieving the KPIs. So performance and success are two very different things.

  • Staff engagement becomes very, very different; currently it is sort of a loose emotional bond between people and the business. Under the OPD model it is very precisely people being able to visualize themselves acting out the ideals.

  • Office politics becomes bounded by the reality of staff needing to deliver very clear ideals in order to succeed in their job. Team cooperation is clarified, and embraced within the structure of KPIs and ideals derived from those KPIs.

  • Leadership becomes very, very clear: Namely identify the KPIs and ideals derived from those KPIs then gain team commitment to deliver the ideals as needed every day at work.

  • Because people can 'own' themselves we can speak of the human capital of society or communities. The organization then rents - in strictly economic terms - its human capital from the society. So the business may 'invest' in it human capital, but that is exactly the same as investing in rented property, the organization never owns the investment, and only has use of it while renting it.

    I will elaborate all these points over coming weeks. Right now you will not have grasped the significance this simple change in start point will bring to the clarity and insight of your thinking on management, leadership, organization development, training, and succession planning, etc. Achieving this change ensures that your transparencies on management, leadership, etc are as good as they can be, sound, solid, and, certain; so like riding a bike you can refine and consolidate your skills and effectiveness knowing some new fashion is not going to come out next year. When the concept is right effectiveness will improve, and improve and

  • 1. See www.grlphilosophy.co.nz.