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Secrets to organizational greatness
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By PATRICIA McLAGAN

Is there a consultant who, in the course of a professional career, wouldn't give all to be affiliated with at least one "great organization"? Preferably to play a part in developing that greatness? Or at least to observe firsthand, learn, and gain inspiration from such a relationship?

So, what is a great organization, and how can you recognize one? or a potential one?

Read on ....

There is a lot of talk today about knowledge management for organizations. Much of it focuses on the use of information technology to capture, store, and spread information. But there is a more fundamental question. How can we tap into the world's knowledge about what really works in order to get results that matter?

The '80s and '90s popularized the idea of "best practices," but in fact many best-practice methodologies are flawed. It is common to first decide what organizations we think are good and then to present what they do as "best." There are several things wrong with this approach. Such benchmarking may catch an organization at the top of its life-cycle curve just before the fall. It all too often focuses on big-company practices that may be the best of an old paradigm (such as performance management practices that reflect codependent boss-subordinate relationships). Gallup's First Break All the Rules research presents a different perspective: There really are no great companies-just great work groups.1

Part of the problem is that the paradigm is faulty. Instead of working backward from a "model" company to arrive at its practices, a far more interesting and useful approach is to clarify the results we want to investigate and find out what practices relate to those results. This requires a more rigorous approach to research in which the company itself is incidental.

Focus on Results

There are two easy ways to think about organizational results: One involves focusing on constituencies; the other is to identify broad categories of strategic goals. Here are some constituencies and the kinds of results that relate to them:

* Customers-great organizations attract and retain them.

* Employees-great organizations attract, retain, and get high performance from and with people.


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