One of the biggest issues for success is tenacity. One of the things that we found is that designing organizations is, first of all, never done. So even organizations that come up with a great design and create high performance, if they aren’t building continuous renewal and reinvention and rethinking into their organization design, entropy will eventually take over, and they’ll decline in performance. So none of these solutions and even the solutions in the book are a recipe for success for the next century unless you do them all and keep doing them all. Consequently, there’s a whole chapter on learning and improvement and the ways to learn.
At the end of the day, it really is about learning, and it’s about learning forever. Learning things about your organization that nobody else actually knows. In other words, creating new strategies, creating new ways of doing things, testing them, finding out what works, what doesn’t work. You’re not going to find those answers in a book. You’re going to find those answers by conducting your own experiments. But you first have to come up with a cool new design to test. So that’s a continuous process, and it just never ends. Back in the quality movement, we used to say it’s a journey without an end. It’s not a very good marketing pitch because most of you are likely saying, “okay I don’t want any of that. I want something I can accomplish and be done with.” Well, when we figure that out, we will package it, because we could make a lot of money on that. If we figured out the solution to organization performance that will be fixed for a hundred years, we’d really be good. But we haven’t, and I don’t know anybody who has.
Develop or Decline
If we’re not constantly learning, our organization is getting stale and probably declining. So you may not have to grow in quantity, but you have to continually develop. This is a Russell Ackoff concept I got from a talk he did 30 years or so ago. He said I quit growing in size somewhere in my late teens, but since then I’ve been developing and getting better. Whether we’re growing in size or developing, we’ve got to be developing. The same is true for our organization. That’s really the only way we know to stay on the leading edge and stay competitive and be relevant in a fast-changing marketplace.