Development is not something that is done to an individual or group; it is something they do to themselves. It is an increase in the ability and desire to satisfy one’s needs and legitimate desires and those of others. It is a matter of learning, not earning. No one can learn for another, but one can encourage and facilitate the learning of another. Development is not a matter of how much one has, but how much one can do with whatever one has and what resources can create out of what is available.
Organizational development requires leadership, which is primarily an aesthetic activity. One who leads development must inspire pursuit of a vision in whose production the leader had a hand. A vision is a picture of a state more desirable than the one that the organization currently is in. Leadership must also faciliate development of the strategy, tactics, and operations by whose means the vision can be pursued. Since the vision is often one of an ideal that can never be attained, though it may be approached continuously, leadership must see to it that the pursuit itself is satisfying, that it is fun as well as meaningful and valuable. Effective pursuit of an ideal requires the leader to extract the best possible effort from those who follow. In a corporation, this requires providing nothing less than a very high quality of work life.
Part of leadership is an appropriate ethical-moral judgement process. The ideal process would encourage leaders to make decisions only by consensus of all stakeholders. And the final decision should never deprive another of the ability or opportunity to develop unless the one affected by the decision would otherwise deprive others of this ability or opportunity.
However, the number of stakeholders of some corporate decisions runs into the millions, and there is just no way of involving all of them in every decision that affects them. For that reason, multi-national enterprises have to use representatives of various stakeholder groups. In a perfect world, any organization would designate individuals who will be responsible for identifying and evaluating the effects, if any, of current decisions on future generations’ choices and the ability and desire to make them.
A vision that involves a radical change in the way an organization is conceptualized is a transforming vision. One who leads the pursuit of such a vision is a transformational leader. Transformations are primarily qualitative, rather than quantitative, and are large discontinuities, not merely reform or incremental improvements.
The transformation to systemic thinking has brought with it a growing awareness of the fact that the effectiveness with which any of our daily activities (work, play, learning, inspiration) can be carried out depends on the extent to which they are integrated. Making it very apparent that a transformational leader must be able to integrate the various aspects of life in order to effectively pursue development. The transformational leader is one who can create an organization that reunifies life, who integrates work, play, learning, and inspiration.
The transformation of an enterprise from one conceptualized as an animate system to a social system is only one kind of transformation that is possible. However, in our current environment – one characterized by an increasing rate of change; increasing complexity; and an increasing rate of production of understanding, knowledge, and information – there is no other type of transformation that can bring about the necessary focus on employees, customers, and the other corporate stakeholders. A corporation that continues to focus more on shareholder value and less on stakeholders will ultimately fail.
In our last installment of the “Transform your business” series, we’ll talk about Human Business Design.