What Orgs Want
Or, more accurately, what organisations need. (Wants and needs are very rarely the same thing).
First off, does it make any sense to talk about what an organisation might need? Sure, we can discuss the needs of the various groups within an organisation – the Core Group, the shareholders, the employees, and so on. And the needs of the individuals involved – not that the subject of individual needs get much airtime in the typical organisation.
NB I recently wrote a post about the needs of some of these groups in “Damn Outcomes!”.
Back at the main theme of this post: what might be the needs of a given organisation?
Well, like individuals, we make sweeping generalisations at our own risk. At least for individuals, we have some guidance in the form of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs.
From the perspective of Organisational Psychotherapy, an organisation’s needs, whilst fundamental, rarely receive much overt attention. In the course of the therapeutic relationship, the organisation itself may come to a clearer awareness of its own (collective) needs. Those needs may even change and morph as they emerge, become more explicit, and become a valid topic for dialogue and discussion (i.e. ”discussable”).
But we have some basic options for consideration re: the possible needs of an organisation. I wrote about these options some time ago now, in a post entitled “Business Doctrine”. Extrapolating from that post, here’s some possible business (organisational) needs:
- The need to create and keep customers (Drucker)
- The need to supply goods and services to customers (serve the needs of the customer) (Drucker)
- The need to provide a service (Burnett)
- The need to provide a product or service that people need and do it so well that it’s profitable (Rouse)
- The need to act as a nexus for a set of contracting relationships among individuals (Jensen and Meckling)
- The need to optimise transaction costs when coordinating production through market exchange (Coase)
- The need to serve society (McLaughlin et al)
- The need to maximise the medium-term earning per share for shareholders (US business schools)
- The need to make a profit so as to continue to do things or make things for people (Handy)
- The need to make money (Slater)
- The need to make a profit (Watkinson Committee)
Given the Rightshifting perspective that the purpose of any given business is more or less unique to a time, a place, and the people involved, we might reasonable say that the needs of any given organisation are also more or less unique to a time, a place, and the people involved.
To sum up: I choose to believe that organisations, collectively, do have needs. Each organisation is different – it has its own, different and sometime unique needs. The dialogue involved in surfacing any given organisation’s needs brings benefits in and of itself. Absent clarity on those needs, how can the organisation decide on its priorities, on what matters?
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