I have often dreamed about what an ideal organisation would look like. More importantly perhaps, what an ideal organisation would feel like to be part of?
Of course, such a thing as a perfect organisation does not exist. Organisations are in constant flux, the interconnection of multiple interactions and behaviours means they are never the same from one moment to the next. Part of the power in bringing communities of people together around a shared vision is the dynamism and diversity of thinking which contributes to the greater whole.
Striving for an ideal future vision, an intended state of things, is something that can help to inspire and motivate people to connect to something better. Dreaming of a better future is essential. It can help to instill a sense of optimism and positivity instead of cynicism and despair. Martin Luther King didn’t stand in Washington and say ‘I have a strategic 5-year plan’. He said ‘I have a dream’. That’s what resonates with people at a deep and emotional level. It goes to the heart of our humanity.
So, what would the characteristics of an ideal organisation look and feel like?
I dream they might look something like this:
- The organisation would be committed to do some real good in the world. At the very least, they would be committed to doing no harm. There would be a clearly understood purpose about what the organisation wanted to achieve in the world.
- The organisation would be underpinned by a deep and authentic set of values that guide actions and behaviours towards the vision or ideal state. People would not need excessive rules to control them, they would have the autonomy and responsible freedom to work in alignment with the values.
- Leaders in the organisation would inspire people to become more than they ever dreamed they could. Leaders would be open, approachable and extend trust through their actions and behaviours. They would instill self-belief, opportunities for development, appropriate challenges to unlock potential, within a culture of psychological safety. Leaders would be prepared to share their own vulnerabilities and see this as a sign of strength.
- The organisation would be rooted in a strong culture of caring. Caring for one another is one of the most fundamental of our human needs. We all want to feel safe and secure. The organisation would be infused with kindness and emotional intelligence at all levels. The organisation would understand that work is one part of our often messy, complex lives.
- People would be paid fairly and provided with secure work. This provides a platform for them to develop their talents and gifts without the constant threat of layoffs and unemployment.
- In the ideal organisation, the work itself would be fun, meaningful and leave people with a sense of fulfilment.
- In an ideal organisation people would have clear expectations, understand what winning looked like so that they could channel their best efforts in pursuit of the organisation’s goals. People would take personal responsibility and hold themselves accountable for their outcomes and for their contribution towards creating an even stronger culture. They would think team rather than ‘me’.
- The organisation would view mistakes and errors as opportunities for learning and improvement. They would not view mistakes and errors as blame mechanisms.
- The organisation would adopt a strong culture of coaching, the mindset would be to coach rather than ‘manage’ or ‘supervise’. This would help to develop self-awareness and responsibility for action at all levels, treating people with respect and as adults. This would help to align efforts to best serve the priorities of the organisation and the needs of all stakeholders.
- The organisation would create a welcoming and friendly environment where people felt they truly belonged. The organisation would strive to build an inclusive environment as they believe that business performs best when there is a diverse range of skills, talents, thinking and backgrounds to learn from.
- The organisation would appreciate it has a wider responsibility to society, to local communities including the impact made on the environment.
As I was framing this list and letting my dreams develop without limitation, the thoughts conjured even bigger and more daring dreams. My thoughts drifted to a world where this kind of organisation was the norm rather than the exception. A world where our children would enter an organisation with deeply embedded values as described above. As a parent myself, that’s what I want for my own children. In fact, we could make it a right that every child can grow up and enter a world of work where this kind of organisation is commonplace. Dreaming takes us to all sorts of wonderful places!
What kind of world would that be? Having dreamt about an ideal future state without limitation, it also allows for some comparisons between organisations as they exist today in the present reality, with reference to the elements that have been identified above. If the dream represents one version of an ideal state, the converse must also be true. If we do not dream and build organisations around such principles, we are accepting that the present reality is unalterable. It means we are unlikely to break the perpetual cycle of cynicism, hopelessness, stress, and fear that becomes pervasive in so many organisations. Far from a dream, for many people, work is a nightmare that feels endless.
We cannot just throw money at this challenge. There are no quick fixes but there are many quick wins where we can begin to translate the dream into a lived reality.
The wonderful quote by Wilferd Peterson captures the mood of what I wish to convey better than I ever could have done:
Walk with the dreamers, the believers, the courageous, the cheerful, the planners, the doers, the successful people with their heads in the clouds and their feet on the ground. Let their spirit ignite a fire within you to leave this world better than when you found it.
I hope these words may inspire just one person to dream about a better future, without limitation. What an amazing legacy we could leave. Who is prepared to dream with me? I would love to hear your thoughts.