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The Attributes of a Great Company Published: Sunday, June 6, 1999 By: Dr. Manuel Angel Morales

A few years ago, I was working with the President of this multi-national corporation that was undergoing a dramatic loss of its market share. After a very deep and intensive day of work he asked me ¨What may we hope for in our company?¨ If we could be anything at all after coping with this crisis, how high do you think we can reach? Perhaps organizational greatness, I exclaimed. His Human Resources Director was excited with the proposition, but he remained silent. Then I explained them the greatness models of Koestenboum. Ackoff, Frits, Handy and those developed by my group.

As I have learned through my academic, research a and practice journey, as there are great causes, books, medical findings, music, films, basketball teams, buildings and people, there are also great companies. We know a great company in the same way we know a great sport team: by the way the individual performers work together, play the game, and consistently achieve their goals. We know a great team by their optimism and the spirit they express, the level of aspirations they have, their knowledge foundation, their learning drive and the values they live in. We know them by the value they create. Greatness is expressed in various dimensions or strategies: Vision, which is thinking big and new; Reality as having no false illusions; Ethics, as providing heroic service; Courage, as acting with knowledge and sustained initiative. A great organization continually takes a stand for its vision, reality, ethic foundation, knowledge base and innovation initiatives. So it must have real dreams.

In this day of acquisition and mergers, some companies are left in a funk. They are owned by a large holding company that bought them as an investment, and their sole task is to produce profit for their parent company. The parent doesn`t understand the business of the company, nor it is interested. The parent only wants to milk the subsidiary for all it can, and then, when the subsidiary has been run in the ground by lack of investment in its capacity or future, it is sold.

The above condition creates a huge human resources dilemma. People in these acquired organizations suffer a deep psychological paradox: on one hand they want to do the right things, the first time, all the time (definition of quality performance), work hard and commit to the service philosophy, on the other they are sometimes treated with indifference and disrespect. What is disrespected is their humanity by statements of they are dispensable. People with a strong work ethic before the acquisition, who were involved, who cared, who stayed late anytime it was needed, are forced to lose interest, giving up caring and performing the minimum acceptable for the new conditions.

Great organizations know that there is more to life than shareholders` returns, though acknowledging that important part of the business. Great organizations are able to be true to themselves. They also tend to make a lot of money, which is good, because greatness often is a commercially viable proposition that pays off handsomely.

The empirically based point is that, it is possible to design and structure an organization that evokes in people a call to be their best and most noble. This is a civic virtue culture. These organizations have strength that goes beyond any individual, having collective leadership structure that is great, wise and dynamic. Their key attributes: power is distributed widely and well; local relationships are intelligently managed with overall interests in mind; the organization itself is an important social protagonist; principles determine policies; growth is clearly defined; resources are managed in ways consistent with comprehensive design and strategic diligences; it continually aligns people.

What kind of organization would you rather work for? One in which you can express what is highest in your spirit or one that doesn`t care about people stressing just finance and profit? Our research and practice show that not a single soul chooses the later organization. A few years ago, I was working with the President of this multi-national corporation that was undergoing a dramatic loss of its market share. After a very deep and intensive day of work he asked me ¨What may we hope for in our company?¨ If we could be anything at all after coping with this crisis, how high do you think we can reach? Perhaps organizational greatness, I exclaimed. His Human Resources Director was excited with the proposition, but he remained silent. Then I explained them the greatness models of Koestenboum. Ackoff, Frits, Handy and those developed by my group.

As I have learned through my academic, research a and practice journey, as there are great causes, books, medical findings, music, films, basketball teams, buildings and people, there are also great companies. We know a great company in the same way we know a great sport team: by the way the individual performers work together, play the game, and consistently achieve their goals. We know a great team by their optimism and the spirit they express, the level of aspirations they have, their knowledge foundation, their learning drive and the values they live in. We know them by the value they create. Greatness is expressed in various dimensions or strategies: Vision, which is thinking big and new; Reality as having no false illusions; Ethics, as providing heroic service; Courage, as acting with knowledge and sustained initiative. A great organization continually takes a stand for its vision, reality, ethic foundation, knowledge base and innovation initiatives. So it must have real dreams.

In this day of acquisition and mergers, some companies are left in a funk. They are owned by a large holding company that bought them as an investment, and their sole task is to produce profit for their parent company. The parent doesn`t understand the business of the company, nor it is interested. The parent only wants to milk the subsidiary for all it can, and then, when the subsidiary has been run in the ground by lack of investment in its capacity or future, it is sold.

The above condition creates a huge human resources dilemma. People in these acquired organizations suffer a deep psychological paradox: on one hand they want to do the right things, the first time, all the time (definition of quality performance), work hard and commit to the service philosophy, on the other they are sometimes treated with indifference and disrespect. What is disrespected is their humanity by statements of they are dispensable. People with a strong work ethic before the acquisition, who were involved, who cared, who stayed late anytime it was needed, are forced to lose interest, giving up caring and performing the minimum acceptable for the new conditions.

Great organizations know that there is more to life than shareholders` returns, though acknowledging that important part of the business. Great organizations are able to be true to themselves. They also tend to make a lot of money, which is good, because greatness often is a commercially viable proposition that pays off handsomely.

The empirically based point is that, it is possible to design and structure an organization that evokes in people a call to be their best and most noble. This is a civic virtue culture. These organizations have strength that goes beyond any individual, having collective leadership structure that is great, wise and dynamic. Their key attributes: power is distributed widely and well; local relationships are intelligently managed with overall interests in mind; the organization itself is an important social protagonist; principles determine policies; growth is clearly defined; resources are managed in ways consistent with comprehensive design and strategic diligences; it continually aligns people.

What kind of organization would you rather work for? One in which you can express what is highest in your spirit or one that doesn`t care about people stressing just finance and profit? Our research and practice show that not a single soul chooses the later organization.  


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