Is Your Organization Rational?

Is your organization rational? Think twice before you answer this one, in some ways it is a trick question. Before I go any further, I should define what I mean by rational. In its most basic sense, a rational organization has a formalized structure, a clear sense of organizational goals, rules and behaviors that are highly structured, and cooperation is both deliberate and conscious. If you were to break this out and look at each component independently, how would you answer this question?

Now, think for a moment about your answer. Do you have clear organizational goals that can be described across the enterprise? Do people act deliberate, based on formalized rules? Regardless of how you answer this question, I think the more important question is SHOULD your organization be rational? Is it an appropriate model of organizations in the current workforce environment? Is it realistic to think that people A) are rational actors themselves and B) are not a part of a larger ecosystem that influences decisions, thoughts, behaviors and interactions?

If you are part of a rational organization (and here is the trick … most of us are indeed) are you effectively able to respond to the world around you? Are you building structures and systems that enable customers, suppliers and employees to make decisions that are fast, flexible and adaptable? Do you need to open up your structure to accommodate the new realities we are dealing with? And if so, how would you go about making the needed changes? The answer to the question for every organization is going to be dependent on what you are trying to accomplish and who your competitors are, but that is up to you to figure out as the first step.

Being rational sounds like a good idea, but the reality is much different. We are not really rational beings (see Predictably Irrational by Dan Ariely). We can predict how irrational we are, but our motives and behaviors are not simply subject to one defined set of rules, and as a result our actions are not always so clearly determined. Add on a layer of complexity about how we interact in a fast paced, ever changing environment and all bets are off.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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