Organisational Models (Insight from Malcolm Gall)
We use models of organisations because they are useful. Leaders can check whether vital elements are in place and functioning in their organisations. It is unwise to believe that the models represent the whole truth. Reality is always more complex. Visual models show sequences and connections, but usually only in two dimensions. Reality is multidimensional. Some relationships can be put into mathematical models or spreadsheets but their impact is that of a “black box” – their internal workings are invisible.
Whatever model the leadership of an organisation uses the model is a theory to test. It requires the leadership to consider questions such as “What does the model predict for the organisation? What does the organisation do badly, or even fail to do at all?” The model acts as a provocation but it can also act as a map for change.
Organisational leaders bring their talents, skills, knowledge, and, hopefully, a willingness to learn. They and their staff must concern themselves with:
- The aims of the organisation (expressed in goals, visions and values etc.)
- The means of achieving the aims (where are resources are put. what the people are to do)
- Testing whether the aims are being achieved.(this is often more challenging than is usually first understood)
A special interest group in the Chartered Quality Institute, the Deming group, considered how a systems thinking approach could be incorporated into a management model for organisations whose leaders want them to be sustainable. It used the thinking of W E Deming and others as the inspiration for developing a generic model (MoSO – Model of Sustainable Organisations).
At the heart of the model are the elements: Supplier – Organisation – Customer (customer means those who receive the output of the organisation, not necessarily those paying for it- they are another category of stakeholder) and feedback/feed forward between these elements.
Organisations are not hermetically sealed in their own vacuum forever. MoSO acknowledges the context that any organisation today exists within, namely: its culture and leadership, society, and its environment. All these contexts can interact with each other. They can generate voices, additional to those arising from within the organisation’s own operating areas, which should be used to inform the organisation’s leadership. All organisations must be engaged upon continual improvement and innovation, otherwise they are destined to create waste and inefficiencies, or even fail and disappear.
This is the basic MoSO model. The dotted boundaries are porous. Information and influence moves through them. The Plan-Do-Study-Act cycle (PDSA) is the basic activity for driving improvement and innovation.
MoSO: website http://www.thecqi.org/moso
This website gives access to a short downloadable booklet (10 pages: “Model of Sustainable Organization – how sustainable is your organization?”) and an introductory video clip (just under 10 minutes), as well as over 25 supporting articles on various elements, features of the model and examples. The group that created it are keen to study and improve it, so comments are welcome.
W E Deming. The New Economics. “Production viewed as a system” is on page 58 of the Second Edition.
W E Deming. Out of the Crisis.
Deming Alliance http://www.demingalliance.net Aimed at the improvement of all elements of society.
DLN http://www.dln.org.uk/ Deming Learning Network. Aimed at improvement and transformation of organisations and society in Scotland.
NET2 http://net2.org.uk North of England network for the improvement of individuals, organisations and society.
Malcolm Gall worked for over thirty years in the chemical, plastics and consumer product industries and is now interested in how systems in organisations can be improved for the benefit of everyone.