. The Inner Voice of the Organization:From survival to sustainability: 20 insights
Paper presented at ISOL 2013, Bhubaneswar
Ora Setter, Ph.D. Tova Averbuch, Faculty of Management Faculty of Management
Tel Aviv University, Tel Aviv, Israel
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org Email: email@example.com
In most spiritual traditions, the “inner voice”, or “intuition” plays a major role in accessing knowledge, and is considered a pure and immediate way of knowing (Osbeck, 2001, Ferguson, 1999). What is the inner voice, where does it come from, and what is its validity are all very controversial issues, both in general and in the organizational behavior domain (Agor, 1989, Burke and Miller, 1999, Dane & Pratt, 2007). But no one denies the prevalence of “gut feelings” in decision making processes in organizational and business settings (Khatri & Ng, 2000, Matzler, Bailom & Mooradian, 2007).
In this presentation, we’ll make the case for an organizational intuition. Tapping upon complexity theory, sustainability, organizational learning and cutting edge large group decision making theories and methodologies (Senge, 2000, 2004, 2008, Scharmer, 2009, Kahane, 2007, 2010, Elkington, 1997, Surowiecki, 2007, schein, 2009, Bunker & Alban, 1996, Wilber, 2000, Barrett, 2006, Hock, 2005) we’d like to offer a model of 20 insights for reaching and using that collective inner voice both for the benefit of the future organization, and for the good of the stakeholders. The model adhere to spiritual principles and ethical outlook that are common to spiritual traditions: interconnectedness, holistic outlook, compassion, accountability , emptiness and constant change.
Presentation of the 20 insights will be accompanied by examples and case studies.
The inner voice of the organization: From survival to sustainability: 20 insights
1. Our basic assumption is that the mission of organizations should not be defined as profit maximization, that represent the “survival” mode, but as life itself, breathing, existence – the “affluence” mode, which is the maximization of total value for all stakeholders inside and outside the organization, present and future ones. We assume that survival is the condition, and sustainability and creation of unique value are the objectives.
“Sustainability”: when the organization gives more than it takes, creates added value, and balances present and future needs, so that the three main energy resources (financial, human, environmental) used in the present will not endanger the future: they will renew themselves and increase, and will not be used up.
“Interdependence”: the understanding that everything is connected to everything else, and actions which result from the organizational “ego” and do not take the context of time and the social and physical environment into account are liable to cause damage and extinction in the long run.
2. Organizations are not static entities, but a tapestry which is constantly being woven, a jazz orchestra of many different sounds and voices, which are mostly derived from “programming” in the organization’s history, the people leading it and the industry in which it exists; all formed mutually with the economic, social, and physical environment in which it operates.
3. Any person or group, function or organizational unit outwardly represents one unique voice in this orchestra, but the voices of all the others exist and are echoed within each one of them. Some express the dominant voice with which they have been unconsciously programmed, such as “reason”, “fear”, “greed”, “ego” “love” “service” etc., and some express the voice given to them in the framework of their official role in the organization.
4. Multiple voices are essential and advantageous, and they all fill a necessary function in the continuously evolving whole which is the organization. There are outspoken and hidden voices, voices which speak and those which are silent: there are voices which are heard in the organization because they shout, and not necessarily because they are right, and there are voices which are silenced even though what they have to say is valuable. Sometimes a cry expresses pain and sometimes it expresses “ego”, and silence sometimes is derived from fear and sometimes from choice.
5. Listening is the key: if we want to retain organizational health and vitality, it is not the right thing to do, and it is unwise, to suppress and silence voices, because this will cause the loss of essential and creative information in the present, and we run the risk that these voices will emerge as an organizational “disease” in the future (as in the concept of body-mind).
Therefore we should:
– Listen to and hear the voice of reason (for example – the financial, operational, and business strategy departments) as one of the voices.
– Listen to and hear the voice of emotion (for example – the marketing, research and development, and human resources departments) as one of the voices.
– Listen to and hear the ethical voice (for instance – the legal department, welfare, and social responsibility) as one of the voices.
– And other voices as well: anger is one that is usually suppressed the most.
6. The units in the organization which we perceive as problematic units are frequently a reflection, a symptom, of an overall organizational problem derived from lack of attention to the voice they represent. This voice becomes problematic when it intensifies itself in order to become heard and to be included.
7. Enabling expression and making room for everyone and every voice means listening out of generosity, but without encouraging division and strife, which is a situation where each part of the organization operates in a separate and isolated pattern on its own behalf. Listening does not award legitimacy to actions which are derived from this separateness. Action requires an overall systematic view, legitimate authority, and agreed ethics.
8. Every voice (person, role, or unit) is a whole in itself and at the same time constitutes part of the larger pattern which gives it a broader and greater objective, role and significance.
9. An organization which enables a multiplicity of voices should operate while constantly involving all the different voices at all times: common meaning; values and ethics of performance; unity with multiplicity. This is the common tune to which the orchestra adjusts itself.
10. Integration while going with the flow requires awareness and building of suitable spiritual infrastructure. This means, for instance, a common language; awareness of the core values, skills, enabling procedures, and supporting frameworks; formation of information, creation and discussion routes. All these are infrastructures which enable multiplicity to be enriching and informative and not flooding and divisive.
11. Systems are sometimes connected to each other in mysterious and cryptic ways. Sometimes we learn new things in one system by observing another, parallel system. Therefore we should be sensitive to synchronicity: The creation of sensory mechanisms sensitive to external signs, which signal the direction and the route and demand our attention, will help.
12. Nearly always the people and the units on the borderline of the organization, the boundary spanners who exist on the margins, distant from the center, are important as sensors and as a testing ground which indicates the future; by respecting sensibilities we can learn about trends which are just starting to emerge: signals of change of paradigm always originate from the more sensitive, hungrier margins, and almost never from the “satiated” center.
13. Death is part of life: the organization sometimes requires essential, in-depth changes to its structure regarding the mission, the core values which motivate it, its definition of success, its means of action, the type of people needed to bring it there. And therefore – saying farewell to and relinquishing what is familiar, known to us, and convenient.
14. In-depth change creates waves – the “wind of change“; at organizational level this means a process that begins by making space for the organization’s internal voice to emerge:
• Listening to all the internal, external, and marginal voices, while giving each of them the respect it deserves
• Then, concentrating on the most difficult process: silencing that collective “noise” of awareness, creating a quiet space (“the open space”), of emptiness.
• From within the silence, the internal voice, the evolutionary, visionary, vocational dictate of the organization: the organization’s “objective” or the objective for the organization is able to emerge.
• The combination of this essential, internal voice with the other voices, the voices of logic, emotion and ethics, to a united, strategic perception and to actions which derive from it.
15. Change and transformation mean change in the existing structures and balance of power, and there is sometimes temporary chaos until a new order evolves. Therefore, with regard to decisions on change, change at the overall organizational level is insufficient, but an effort should be made to create change in every one of the voices within the organization – and sometimes also outside it. Such change weakens dominant voices and brings silenced voices into the open, and there are some who would prefer “slow death” to change; therefore, there is a period of cacophony – or chaos, in which there are inward-facing activities, increased internal politics and a temporary reduction in the organization’s overall effectiveness.
16. The “right” action combines control and discipline with agility, moving with the flow: it is “chaordic”. flow is manifested in listening, encouragement, and enabling expression of the different voices; dissolving entrenched positions and not hanging onto the status quo; being ready to bid farewell and to make concessions; empowerment; and delegating for new action. Control is manifested in planning; defining a target and/or creating an “objective”; building processes which create room for maneuver, which enlist energy and use it to translate the “objective” into concrete actions within the organization.
17. The leadership’s role – is to sincerely represent the “objective”, the unifying internal voice, to manage the “wind of change”: to embody the courage to take the necessary risks, to support the flow of the physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual energy and the changing balance between the flow of give and take. The leadership removes the barriers, accepts and learns from mistakes and failure, enables synchronization of the different voices into a newer, clearer, more certain tune. In this way it enables the organization’s in-depth change from a position of inspiration.
18. The role of management is to provide infrastructure for new achievements, while being aware of its contributions and limitations, which can channel the new, multi-voiced, multi-dimensional information, and also enlist the necessary resources.
19. The organization’s role – to be complete in and of itself and straightforward, a “voice” from within the tissue from which it has developed: the nation’s and the world’s society, and its broader objectives – prosperity, development, and the sustainability of human society and the planet as a whole…
20. The role of each and every one of us – is to develop his or her own insights and to live them with courage and integrity…
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