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Drawing on his 30 years of experience as an organizational consultant, Karl Albrecht delivers a whack on the head to today's leaders: we've got to make our organizations smarter. He coined Albrecht's Law to express the problem: "Intelligent people, when assembled into an organization, will tend toward collective stupidity." Using a wide variety of personal experiences, success and failure stories, and real cases, he lays out a manifesto for escaping from collective stupidity and achieving collective intelligence — in short, organizational intelligence, or "OI". While some might argue that OI is an oxymoron, or contradiction in terms, Karl Albrecht argues that it can — and must — be achieved if our business enterprises are to move to the next level of performance of which they are capable. He defines and explains seven key dimensions of OI, and devotes a full chapter to each one. Each chapter poses seven diagnostic questions that help you evaluate the OI status of your organization on that dimension. Put all 49 questions together and you have the complete Organizational Intelligence Profile, which you can also download in ready-to-use format (.pdf) from the KAI website. Prof. Warren Bennis of USC (author of On Becoming a Leader) says, "This is a book about how organizations can release and deploy human imagination. What can be more important?" Provide a copy of Minds at Work to each of your executives, managers, and team leaders.
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OI increases when the organization's leaders can articulate precisely what the business stands for and why that matters. They also must have the ability to reinvent that core concept of success as often as needed.
It stands to reason that for an organization to act intelligently, first and foremost it must have a clear and unambiguous sense of purpose. The leaders of the enterprise have to provide direction or a sense of destiny before they can harness the collective talents and skills of everyone to move forward. And unless that reason for existing resonates with the rank-and-file, not much forward momentum will be created.
An organization's sense of purpose has three distinct elements:
1. A sound strategic concept--which details why the organization has been formed and what it is hoped it will achieve. This may be articulated in a simple mission statement, which is succinct and applicable. For example, Disney's strategic concept is: "To deliver a rich customer experience which is full of fun and fantasy delivered in a theatrical environment". To retain its relevance, the strategic concept should be systematically evaluated each year and updated to reflect new trends, threats or opportunities.
2. A workable value proposition--or a means by which the organization will convert the value it adds for customers into revenue. The value proposition is the organization's promise to the marketplace.
3. A good business model--which will provide the infrastructure by which the value proposition will be executed week-in and week-out.
In intelligent organizations, the leaders have an ongoing strategic discussion where these three elements are under constant evaluation and discussion. This strategic conversation refreshes and updates the organization's sense of purpose on a regular basis and allows it to respond to the evolving business environment appropriately. To put this process of regular updates into effect, good leaders are needed. Quality of leadership will play a critical role in fostering organizational intelligence at all levels.
In the absence of organizational intelligence and good leader-ship, an enterprise will generally drift along in the direction of whichever management fads or folklore are currently in fashion. In recent times, that would mean moving progressively through a succession of management ideas, including:
■ Management by objectives (early 1970s)--breaking everything down into key result areas, major goals and specific objectives.
■ Productivity (late 1970s)--analyzing all the jobs, eliminating waste and optimizing each person's contribution.
■ Diversification (late 1970s and early 1980s)--branching out into different and completely unrelated lines of business to even out revenue flows in turbulent market conditions.
■ Mergers and acquisitions (the 1970s and 1980s)--where companies believed they had to: "Get big or get eaten by someone else".
■ Behavioral sciences (early and mid 1970s)--where everyone tried to tie in corporate performance with human relations theories and the hierarchy of human needs.
■ The "Excellence" movement (1980s)--in which everyone aspired to do things with a passionate commitment to excellence, despite the fact that meant different things to different people.
■ The "One Minute Manager" approach (mid 1980s)--where everything in business could be boiled down to a business parable embodying timeless principles of leadership.
■ Total quality management (early 1990s)--where business defects and costs could be reduced by paying close attention to the elements of the manufacturing process.
■ Teams and empowerment (early 1990s)--where employees working together took more responsibility for their results.
■ ISO 9000 (mid 1990s)--where the use of high quality auditing procedures would document and then hopefully enhance all business processes.
■ Re-engineering (early 1990s)--in which organizations could be "fixed" by extending structured problem-solving methodologies into new parts of the business.
■ Customer focus (mid 1990s)--based around the concept of service management rather than manufacturing thinking.
■ Restructuring (late 1990s)--where core competencies, outsourcing, value chains and downsizing moved into the mainstream of business thinking.
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