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The ‘Unhealthy’ Organisation

There is no perfect organisation, there is no perfect existence, just a positive variance of some kind…  At least, as a minimum, an organisation’s structure and how it is organised can be as such that it does not cause undue pain and discomfort for those within. However, the single biggest challenge is outdated, yesteryear design, and/or a design blueprint that is no longer viable or in the context of this article, ‘unhealthy’.

Every organisation exists for one reason, and one reason only, to satisfy/furnish their stakeholders with what is valuable in their! eyes. An organisation’s very existence depends on that, satisfying needs with a positive impact/outcome. Only then can the organisation drive their strategic agenda to its fullest, enabling it to be viable, vital, and virtuous.

In this sense, a well-designed organisation is a healthy one and one that can reap the benefits and leverage the possibilities that good Organisation Design creates.

Often, we ask ourselves the question, why are they doing, what they are doing?

In many cases, it’s not logical, viable, and certainly not sustainable, so why do it then?

The answer? perhaps knowing nothing different, being stuck within the current existence, and inhibited by a lack of leadership, understanding, and wisdom.

It is the ‘stuckness’ and an organisation’s inability to deal with it, that quite often predisposes them to become an ‘unhealthy’ organisation. 

Taking the health agenda to the next level, many modern-day organisations due to lapses in their performance, productivity, and progress could be viewed as ‘ageing’ or ‘ill’ due to being stuck in past or fixed in the current, with limited or no forward momentum. Signs of ill health in an organisation are no different from the human body, some common traits are:

  • Tired & overwhelmed
  • Low performance & response levels
  • Lacking momentum & energy 
  • Burnout & disordered 
  • Chronic & acute pain

Organisational illnesses can, if not dealt with sooner or later will become fatal, therefore there should be no surprise to suggest the importance of an organisation diagnosing their illness, just as a doctor diagnoses their patient, to establish where the pain, illness and/or condition stems from.

Organisational ageing is in essence a ‘DESIGN’ illness and as such there are symptoms that can be identified: Healthy organisations are entrepreneurial, where most things are permissible. The opposite can be said for unhealthy organisations. As such, these organisations are overly bureaucratic, and command-and-control; therefore, new ideas, suggestions, and in-moment changes are forbidden. Unless approved by the exact powers who actively discourage people to think and act independently in the first place.

Unhealthy organisations cannot cure, correct, or treat themselves. Being clearer on what’s wrong and what can be done about it is extremely important. As not all illnesses are the same, unhealthy organisations need to be correctly diagnosed before they can be treated through Design. After all, we cannot prescribe a pill to an organisation like a doctor often does for a patient. Thus, the importance of conducting a full or partial diagnosis to help to determine the right design (treatment) involving the right measures, interactions, and interventions at the cultural, structural, management and/or process levels of an organisation. Of course, for a diagnosis and then for the process of design to follow, there must be a clear understanding and recognition that something is wrong, or something should and can be improved. Only then can future possibilities be discovered and positively exploited.

At Wicked People we adopt a 3D approach to improving Organisational Health:

  • Diagnose: Inquiry, Insight, Intelligence – deep dive and curiosity of our 3C
  • Dialogue: Understanding for Meaning, Sensemaking, and Relevance – employing our TCP Transparency Communication Participation
  • Design: Improve, Innovate, Idealise

This simple yet effective engagement model has served us well so far in helping organisations to unlock their true potential, it also has a strong presence in how we aim to help organisations to evolve into ‘Healthy’ organisations for the future…

To close, a final thought to ponder over…

The route to Organisational Health is through good DESIGN, and not good problem-solving…


#health #design #diagnostic #3d #wickedpeople


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