"If you’re like most senior executives, you want your organization to be exemplary. But if you’re honest with yourself, you also know that it’s not and that, in fact, you’re not even sure what exemplary means or how you’ll ever get there. Most management writing won’t help: despite the multitude of volumes written on organizational excellence, nothing we’re aware of combines a view on the “steady state” of high, sustainable organizational performance with a dynamic perspective on how companies can transform themselves to achieve it.
We’ve tried to fill that gap with our forthcoming book, Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage (Wiley, June 2011), from which this article is adapted. Our central message is that focusing on organizational health—the ability of your organization to align, execute, and renew itself faster than your competitors can—is just as important as focusing on the traditional drivers of business performance. Organizational health is about adapting to the present and shaping the future faster and better than the competition. Healthy organizations don’t merely learn to adjust themselves to their current context or to challenges that lie just ahead; they create a capacity to learn and keep changing over time. This, we believe, is where ultimate competitive advantage lies."
The above passage is excerpted from an introduction to the book "Beyond Performance: How Great Organizations Build Ultimate Competitive Advantage", by Scott Keller and Colin Price, in the McKinsey Quarterly (June 2011).
The key ingredient to being a learning and adapting individual or organization is to experience oneself as a 'process' and not as a 'product'. As experienced during the "CorporateTheatre" workshops, within the 'personality cage', people are products - 'this is the way I was, this is the way I am, this is the way I will be'. Once they empower themselves to drop that cage, they become processes - this is the way I was, this is the way I now am based on my new environment, and what I am tomorrow will depend on the environment that I am in tomorrow. To use the actor's parlance, the character keeps changing according to the need of the current play, while preserving at the core the 'actor' that underlies all the characters. The essential values of the actor remains unchanged, while the characters can be varied in terms of appearance and functionality.
The same holds true for organizations. An organization caged within a set 'personality pattern' of 'this is the way I am', cannot learn, change, or adapt, except on the superficial periphery. Knew knowledge and experience come and go but make no difference to the basic character and functioning of the organization. Learning, Growing, Adapting, are only words and concepts that do not affect or change organizational behaviour in any way.
On the contrary, as 'processes' one is in a state of constant adaption, change, learning, and actual growth. New stimuli and new understanding elicit new and fresh responses and behaviour, and this can be very powerful and deeply energizing, as intensely experienced during the workshops. Once participants drop their 'personality prisons', they keep finding new competencies, fresh insights, and constant energy. As heard often during participant feedback,"nothing is impossible". As individuals and as teams, they fight to win, while applauding the excellence of their competition. In the process, they are far more in control of their own winning, while learning from the excellence of the competitor. They experience themselves as exemplary individuals, and exemplary teams - the ideal foundation for exemplary organizations.