Is Organizational Renewal in Your Future?

Recently, I read a startling statistic on work force productivity. The national average of how much effort the work force is giving to employers in terms of their commitment to the company, their pride and their willingness to put in extra effort to innovate, create and take risks (this is called “productive energy”) is 30 percent. And this measure goes even lower during tough economic times. In real terms, this means that for a 20 person organization with an average annual salary of $40,000 they are losing over $500,000 per year in productive energy. If this organization could improve their productive energy to just 50 percent a potential savings of over $100,000 could flow to the bottom line. Would this make a competitive difference to most small businesses? You bet!

In a book entitled “The Beauty of the Beast, Breathing New Life into Organizations” Geoffrey Bellman contends that one of the keys to increasing productivity in an organization is to continually seek organization renewal. Organizations, whether they are at our work, our place of worship, or even our family, are composed of individuals with hopes, dreams and needs. Over time, unless a culture of continual renewal is sustained, the natural human needs of: achievement, predictability, stature and complexity will wear away the fabric of the organization and leave behind bureaucracy without purpose.

Winston Churchill said: “First we shape our structures. Then our structures shape us”. After a time, we become like the organizations that we serve and we hate in them what we hate in ourselves. Likewise, the more we can accept ourselves and others, the more we’ll be able to acknowledge and accept the organizations in which we live. There is a dichotomy between the organization’s thirst for predictability and our larger need for a sense of purpose which guides our direction. Predictability supports the growth of bureaucracy and our need for stature supports the growth of hierarchy and bureaucracy. The more that we can acknowledge and affirm the needs that are served by organizations, the better position we will be in to begin the process of renewal.

According to Bellman, organization renewal requires clear aspirations informed by the past, present and the future. When we hold on to our future aspirations, they will influence our every action. If we can define our organization’s purpose in terms of life (ability to grow in the present) and ascendance (rising toward future completeness), then we are in a position to begin the process of renewal. As Bellman says, “Renewing requires breathing life into the organization now.”

So, how does one make this process of renewal a mainstay of your organization? Renewal, as with all change, is not an easy process. With a strong vision for the future, developed using a strategic planning process, and a purpose which respects your past and present, you can define the aspirations for your organization. Bellman reveals eight aspirations that are worthy of aspiring to, both individually and organizationally. They are:

• Purpose

• Worth

• Stewardship

• Contribution

• Identity

• Interdependence

• Community

• Hope

Additionally, Bellman details twenty assertions about renewal that will help you take practical action toward reaching the aspirations for your organization over an extended period of time. Most of his assertions can be addressed in the development and implementation of a strategic plan that will guide your organization toward your aspirations.

One of the best quotes from Bellman’s book bears mentioning here: “Build trust, and nurture hope, as if you were going to be living in this organization the rest of your life.” If renewal is not in your future, then what is?