The “Art” of Building an Organization – Guest Blog by Mark Herbert

 In my series of blogs, I have been writing repeatedly about the how’s and why’s of building a winning business.

The essential ingredient to a winning business is having the right mix of people with the same shared vision.

My metaphor for the right mix of people involves DNA. Every business has to have the people with the required DNA. That is, every organization needs people with the right combination of skills, knowledge, talents, and passion to create an organization with the strength and diversity required to adapt, survive and thrive in the business environment of today. Equally important is that all of these different individuals with their different DNA have the same shared vision. This shared vision ensures that everyone in the business is rowing in the same direction.

In the guest blog that follows, Mark Herbert, a management consultant with a focus on improving employee engagement and relationships, treats the same subject of creating a winning organization with a slightly different perspective. Mark uses the metaphor of a mosaic.

The “Art” of Building an Organization – Mark Herbert

I am a fan of both Seth Godin and Daniel Pink. Seth talks a lot about the idea of building “products” that ship. By shipping it means the product is completed, it actually moves successfully from concept through development to be available to the end user of customer.

Pink talks a lot about concepts like flow, that place where effort and result are perfectly balanced, I really enjoyed his discussion about sprezzatura, where you are in that great space. He has also described it as our “art”, that contribution that each of us brings to the world.

When I think about the context of building organizations in the context of visual art I think about it in this way.

The entrepreneur or founder of a business in some ways reminds me of a painter or sculptor. They have a vision in their head which they convert from concept to reality. At least in the beginning stages this work is largely an individual activity. The painter doesn’t invite others to “put a few dabs on” or the sculptor doesn’t hand you a hammer and chisel and say “shave a little off there would you”. They have a vision many times that lives in their head and never really fully expresses itself until it is complete. The issue in some cases is that if you want to “reproduce” the piece it isn’t truly scalable.

When I look at the leadership of a team or organization I see it akin in some ways to constructing a mosaic, you are building something by assembling pieces. Finding the right piece to go in the right place is what ultimately allows us to complete the whole.

When I have worked with founders or closely held businesses the transition from “painting” to constructing a mosaic is one that they struggle with. Recognizing that to create scalability you have to move to more of a mosaic model is tough to do.

The mosaic represents itself in multiple ways. From an organizational standpoint you may need to bring different “specialists” into the organization. Functions or decisions that you made may now be spread amongst several people or even departments. The “pieces” you need will also evolve. If all the “pieces” look and act the same you have no texture. That to me is the defining competency of leadership, fitting the different pieces together in a way that contributes a whole.

Each person on your “team” has to play their part, both technically and from a “fit” standpoint. I believe great managers and leaders are adept at this, bringing the disparate pieces together using a shared vision as the “glue” that cements the mosaic into a whole.

Because I live in a place where relationships are key (metaphorically), I see the construction of that mosaic and fitting and cementing those pieces as very key. You must also examine the pieces from not only the “technical” or skill dimension, but also the “fit” or shared vision.

I think in much of the work that we do around organizational change and process we really underestimate the shared vision and values piece. I believe that piece is what creates or fails to create engagement. In fact I would go so far as to say if you just have the “systems” without the shared vision as a connection point you will never really see truly optimized performance on a sustained basis. I think the research on engagement validates my perspective.

If you are going to introduce a new model like lean, six sigma, or a new technology you need to ensure that the connectivity piece to the shared vision is there or you simply won’t see sustained success.

The other interesting thing is that the latest research concludes that this connectivity is critical in achieving engagement.

Four out of the five key drivers cross generationally are about connection to the mission and vision with the last one being about individual autonomy and flexibility within the organization. The order was only slightly different, and the list of drivers overlapped 100%.

So think about where you are at in the evolution of your business- are you painting or sculpting or have you reached a stage where you need to build your mosaic? Remember that as you evolve if you desire scalability, or the ability to replicate efficiently it is likely that building the right mosaic is what will serve your “art”.

Also remember that as you assemble your human mosaic that among your technical specialists you will need to include linchpins, those individuals whose
greatest abilities may lie not in their “technical” contribution, but in building human mosaics…..

Mark Herbert is a Principal at New Paradigms LLC and the author of the book Managing Whole People. Mark can be reached at www.newparadigmsllc.com

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About David Shedd

David has been a President - CEO - COO of an up to $350M group of manufacturing, distribution, specialty retail and services companies, having led 22 different businesses from turnarounds to start-ups to fast growth companies.
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