Organizations Are Much Like Families

I’ve reconnected with a good friend of mine and not only have I appreciated the depth of our relationship I’ve also enjoyed seeing how our learning as been an “iron sharpening iron” experience.  After spending years connecting with sporadic phone calls our conversations now are regular and rich at so many levels.

One issue over which John (John C. Johnson, Ph.D.) and I share great synergy is in the area of developing a healthy culture in organizations.  As I lean on his experience from decades of counseling and interactions with individuals and organizations around the world we find ourselves chatting about how to help build and maintain organizational health.  Add to that, both of us have gleaned a wealth information form Peter Senge about systems and Patrick Lencioni about healthy organizations.

Here’s a highlight from our latest interchange and the notes about organizational health:

What does it mean that an organization is healthy?

Organizations are much like family systems.  Some are healthy and functional while others are very unhealthy and dysfunctional.

Why don’t leaders make decisions to build organizational health?

Often time leaders within an organization know that something is wrong but because they are part of the system, they can’t see system problems.

Why is it so difficult to build organizational health?

Often times, certain individuals within the system, become the identified problem and they are lost to the organization. However, this leaves the organization in no better shape than before.

What needs to happen?

The system needs to be addressed in order to build a healthy organization and facilitate transformation. An objective third-party who is willing to speak the truth is a foundational step in this process.

My take-away – which I shared in my weekly coaching session with a group of managers – is a key ingredient in a healthy organization is not the lack of relational challenges or conflict.  What makes an organizational healthy is the willingness to actually face the challenges and conflict and deal with it openly and honestly.  Dysfunctional organizations ignore conflict, threaten individuals, or intentionally avoid speaking the truth.

How would you describe the organizations for which you’ve worked – functional or dysfunctional?

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