Organisational parasites


Picture of the Earth, surrounded by a fractile image of many coloured trees all interconnecting

Ecology of things

If normal flora and fauna are beneficial, are organisational parasites beneficial?  If I said: Point out someone in your organisation who could be described as an ‘organisational parasite’ (I wouldn’t ask that!), I am sure you could, very quickly.  If I asked; What do you plan to do about the parasite? What would happen next?

It is a very simple thing to make an analogy of an organisation with a biological organism – in fact, it is very common to consider that the structure and function of an organisation is what it is, because that is what it needs to be: the same reason that the heart, lungs, gills, eyes, brain, abdomen etc. is what it needs to be and where it needs to be to most effectively do what it needs to do.  Structure and Function is the basis of most organisational development, design and business process management practice, even if this concept is only intuitively and tacitly understood, if not explicit and up front.

I personally, would always favour an organisational change manager or business process engineer with a background in biology, ecology or human anatomy every time.  Why? Because they have a sense of what is going on, and the essential ‘cosmic interconnectedness‘ (thanks Douglas Adams for the concept – however to make it more sensible, lets call it ‘Big Data‘) that they are tweaking, fondling and grossly dismembering, in a way that even the most sophisticated financial analyst, with their finger on the pulse, cannot.  And that is because of the relationship of the organisation to that of something living and actual, rather than theoretical and symbolic, which I have yet, in my experience, failed to come across, in those who ‘don’t get it’ because they are focused on the bottom line, or the left and right sides of a ledger.

So, it is a known fact that there are advantages of some parasites in the human body – do [some] organisational parasites come with advantages too?

There is argument (bloodless, but quite fierce) to support the concept that humanity is either currently ‘attempting to evolve‘ into our next genetic mutation, or is on the verge of evolving (whether we like it or not) with the event horizon of ‘the Technological Singularity‘ fast approaching.  Some cite evidence of this ‘attempt’ to evolve in the higher incidence of Autism, Aspergers Syndrome, Downs Syndrome etc, as a way of the species attempting to find a new genetic or neuro-intellectual deviation or mutation which is able to ‘cope’ or take advantage of the new ‘pressures of existence’ – pressures which include the need to ‘think’ a different way to be able to synthesize the vast quantities of data into information, and therefore knowledge and wisdom, which we have never, anthropologically, had to deal with before.

Image of a symbolic brain, with connections from the internet to feed it with more and more data

Getting fed!

So, as cultivators and repair-practitioners of organisational cultures (in the current context, we could also be talking ‘cultures’ in the same biological vein as ‘culturing likeness in a petri dish for the requirement of studying or altering behaviour and action on the world around the culture’ – a definition which quite well describes the organisational change manager, in my view) do we have the scientific background to understand what we are looking at, down the microscope, now or in the near future?  Do we have the biological engineering equivalent in our organisations to reliably predict what the changes we propose will have on an organism, in the context of the organisation, which moves within an ecosystem, that has arisen through a process of anthropological evolution to ensure that the current structure and function of an organisation is exactly what it needed to survive – to now – but may not be able to cope with the environmental pressures that the world will place on it, in the near future?

Evolution has always been at the behest of the changes to the environment of which genetic diversity seeks to take advantage – and vice versa.  So, that would make the change manager role one of understanding the environment, and the actors on the environment, and then seeking to provide an environment to encourage the growth of sameness (or culture) that would promote or highlight the ‘piece of diversity’ that takes advantage of the identified changes.  Else, the change manager seeks to introduce a ‘piece of diversity’ to a receptive (by design or accident) culture which in turn, effects the environment to change in a desirable way.  Or both, at the same time, considering the myriad of cause-and-effect reactions, flavoured by emotional and behavioural diversity already existing in the organisation. When looked at it from this perspective, how would you rate your skill level at achieving this, rather than ‘communicating something’, sending an email, or ‘engaging’ with a stakeholder?

So, for the change manager, does this mean that, as well as understanding the structure and function of the organisation, it is also a requirement for us to understand the symbiosis in the organisation of the parasites and the normal flora and fauna of the organisation – so that we can be change managers gardening and tending the ecology of those organisms/organisations that we seek to serve?

What eco-management skills and capabilities do you have, in relation to yours or any other organisation? Further, if you don’t currently have the skills to keep a whole ecology alive (for how can you achieve change within an ecology if you don’t consider the whole of it, including the individuals, the individual ‘species’ and other collectives, and their relationship to the greater whole – which may even include the external factors acting on your ecology?) where are you going to get those skills, and how do you know when you have them?  And how do you know those evolutionary changes (for it is EVOLUTION of the organisation we are seeking to influence here, don’t mistake me, nothing shorter of ‘evolutionary engineering’) are going to achieve the desired effect – or if the desired effect is something for now, or something for the future, when the changes actually come to bear on the organisation?



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s