Where I work, people talk about large groupings of other people as departments, or organizations, or just “orgs”.
I’m a member of some volunteer organizations. And even just groups of friends that get together. All of these things are groupings of people. Sometimes it’s granting them a bit too much to call them “organizations”, because that implies there is some actual organization.
I’ve taken to thinking of them all as “orgs” though. Because they share so much by nature of just being groups of humans. And because things that are supposed to have actual organization (like a company department) so frequently don’t, just like a group of friends that get together.
But there’s another reason: and that’s because we can think of “org” as just as much a shortening of “organic” or “organism” as it is of “organization”. And that’s what all groupings of people have in common: they are a distinct organism.
Joseph Rossi is not talking about bacteria here. Your company’s marketing department, your weekend football club, and the Red Cross of American are all in the bucket.
Thinking in Terms of Orgs
This may seem like trivial word games or semantics, but it changes the mental frame that we use for examining how organizations (such as companies) function.
If they’re really organisms, it encourages us to think about their relations, not just their functions. Sales sells a product, and marketing promotes the product. Those are functions, but just as you cannot understand an ant hill by examining the behavior of ants, the relations between these pieces create emergent behavior.
Like organisms, they grow & adapt, and respond to pressures. We tell ourselves useful myths about what orgs are supposed to do, in the form of objectives, and so on. But I’ve come to understand this functional understanding, while accurate, is badly incomplete.
The next time you get involved in a situation at work, or with a social group, volunteer body, or any “org”, ask yourself: how has this org grown and developed in the last period of time? Apart from what it says, where does it want to go? What is its personality?
Now if you’re facing a problem with your local org, apply this same “organism” lens: rather than fixing the problem, what if you cast the solution approach in terms of facilitating the parts of the org to work better together?