Friday, October 2, 2009

Mapping the World and the Future

The Inside and Outside (Integral Business III)

Most organizations these days focus the direction of attention and the measurement of value in one direction: outward towards creating profit for shareholders. Profit is good and creating revenue for people that invest in the company is good. However, a much more careful, considerate direction (multidirection) of attention is required for a busy to be an integral organization, and in my opinion adaptable and thus sustainable in the long term. Equal attention to the inside and outside of the organization is essential.

When I talk about the inside of an organization I am talking about:
  • Culture
  • Organization Norms and Practices
  • Management and Leadership
  • Process
  • Organization Structure
  • Strategic Organization Development
  • Development of Individuals
  • Lines of Communication
  • Cultural Brand, Vision, Mission, & Values (the soul of an organization)
When I talk about the outside of an organization I am talking about:
  • The Product(s) or Service(s)
  • Customers (and everything that is necessary to reach them)
  • Stakeholders
  • Shareholders
  • Revenue & Profit
  • Competition
Most organizations in my experience focus solely on the outside. The rare case of introspection arises when something on the outside is being challenged by something on the inside or when something on the outside is not going well.

An integral business needs to have a multi-attentive-awareness focusing equally on the inside and the outside for the sake of both equally. The inside and outside are symbiotic - they can't really get along well without the other. Sadly, attention is oriented to the outside while the inside is left to sweep the basement. In rich and abundant markets, this is generally okay. Enough capital is pumping through the organization to keep things alive and in many circumstances successful. But when things don't go well, when markets crash, if the interior isn't healthy the pressure and weight of the outside collapses the inside.

The transition to an equal view is not hard. It starts with a few simple questions: do we pay as much attention to the interior of our company as the exterior? Do we have the same rigorous measurements, considerations, and watchers aimed towards the inside as much as the outside? Is there a strategic plan of interior development? Is value and success measured equally by the amount of market share and profit as the flow of communication, quality of leadership and the feel of the culture?

Creating balanced attention is an essential step for creating an integral business, and it starts where it ends: by turning inside.