The whole and its parts

The whole & its parts

The attraction of problems

The way Western medicine most often works is to wait until a patient is ill, search for the cause, and propose a treatment.

The beauty of this is that it allows those involved to stay in a cause-and-effect type of logic.

Many organizations work like that too: when a problem can be found it must be fixed.

A consequence of such cause-and-effect thinking is that people get into the habit of searching for the problem to be able to do something about it.

If that’s how people are healed, why not apply it to organizations?

Another consequence has been that a lot of the leadership and management literature has come to be about the dysfunctions in organizations. And a lot of that literature then focuses on how to do things, or how to find problems so that they can be solved. What they rarely do, however, is describe for what type of organization that solution will work. Or why such a type of organization needs that specific way of working it has.

It’s a bit like assuming that there are no differences between the different types of biological beings on Earth. Or that they all can be treated in the same way.

It’s an underestimation of what doctors also do: assess if the being in front of them is one they can help and if the problem someone is asking to address needs a cure or not. In the latter case, the doctor may stay in the cause-and-effect system if patients insist on it and prescribe a placebo.

From a perspective of management, Eastern medicine might in general be a better approach. There the idea is that the doctor’s job is to help the patient stay healthy. The assessment then will be less focused on searching for problems. It will be closer to evaluating how to care for the system in such a way that it has access to what it needs and has people in it who care for it.

Naturally, problems will still emerge, but they will be addressed on an ongoing basis and with a focus on keeping the organization healthy instead of needing to cure it.

It is important to see and address dysfunctions. It is just as important to assess how much of it keeps the system alive and how relevant addressing it is to enhance the organization’s ability to achieve its purpose.



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