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When a responsive organization becomes a conforming organization

Responsive Organizations are quick to respond or react appropriately or sympathetically to changes in the environment. When does the positive trait of adapting to changes in the environment turn into conformity?

Follow the leader

When outer circumstances dictate the behavior of an organism, be it an organization of an individual, the organism loses its sovereignty and becomes under control of outside forces. This strategy might not be doing any harm to the profitability of an organization. But it does harm moral, at least when ethics are of any concern.

To what extent is adapting to changes in the environment virtuous and in alignment with the organisation's vision? Where is the line between being responsive and being controlled and formed? Who is in the lead and where are we going?

Responsibility and responsiveness

One of the advantages of being conscious beings is that we have the potential to use our faculties to find out how we are affecting the surrounding environment by pursuing certain objectives. We have the potential to find out where our actions are leading towards; to find out what leads to what. And with that potential power at our disposal comes responsibility.

Are being responsible and being responsive, somewhat covertly, linked to each other?

With great power comes great responsibility. When an organism is consciously aware of itself, of its environment and their interplay, the organism is potentially able to respond, i.e. be responsive. Without those characteristics, the organism can only react. When the aforementioned organism acts it is liable to be called on to answer (i.e. it becomes responsible for its action). The organism is liable, because of its conscious awareness of its action and its potential impact on the surroundings.

Responding responsibly

In a previous blog, I wrote about the difference between being responsive and being reactive. To be responsive is to be quick to respond or react appropriately or sympathetically. In order to be able to react appropriately or sympathetically, one needs to be consciously aware of itself, of its environment and their interplay.

By being able to respond, responsibility synchronously and automatically becomes a factor. Whether its volitional and wanted or not - there's no choice. By being able to respond, responsibility becomes a factor - but responsibility for what? That is where you and I become the sole factors. We become responsible for doing the right thing. Whatever the right thing might be. Doing the right thing is dependent on our maturity of conscious awareness, our inner vision, that of the organization (which ideally are aligned) and our ethics.

Doing the right thing holding one vision in mind is doing the wrong thing having an opposite vision in mind.

Responsible adaptation

When an organization is adaptable to the extreme, the organization is malleable by external conditions, by the environment. When adaptability is driven to the extreme, potentially leading to high(er) profits than by a lower level of adaptation, the tendency is to predominantly focus outwardly. With a predominant outward focus, the inward orientation tends to be lost. The conscience of the organization is inside, not outside. The conscience of the organization is there to stay aligned with the organization's mission and vision. When nobody is listening anymore to the inner environment, or inner world, the mission is jeopardized with less chance of realizing the vision.

Being responsible also includes being responsible for carrying out our (self-imposed) mission in order to realize our vision, individually and collectively.  Adaptation therefore becomes a responsible and responsive act - to know when to adapt and when not to adapt. To unwisely adapt leads to conformation and loss of inner vision and sovereignty.

Always keep a listening ear to the inner voice of the organization to keep staying aligned with the inner vision of the organization, which is the reason for its genesis. The vision came first, then the organization. Survival of the vision can be seen as more important than survival or preservation of the organization.

Responding or conforming

Just as with organisms, an organization needs sense organs to be able to notice any movements, fluctuations or changes inside and outside the organization. Listening and being aware of changes inside and outside of the organization are equally important.

Organisations which are striving for high levels of responsiveness are also called sense and respond organisations. Sensing can be focused inwardly (towards the organisation, the inner environment) and outwardly (outside of the organisation, the outer environment). When sensing what is going on within and without, appropriate and sympathetic responses can be given.

When the balance is disturbed and the organization shifts to predominant outer sensing, the tendency is to lose sight of its vision. With a predominant outward oriented sensing - and responding as a result of registering an outer change -  the organization becomes formative and less sovereign. The organization then becomes malleable by outside forces and becomes manipulative and flexible, and less agile.

At present, when talking about sensing and responding, the primary focus is outwardly oriented and this is the mode I'm addressing here. At first glance, there's nothing wrong with this strategy because the organisation can adapt quickly or seamlessly to the outer environment. And that is great, because when the organisation adapts to the environment, it will be preserved. Survival is guaranteed.

But survival at what costs?

Staying on track and aligned

When sense and respond becomes part of the organisation's foundation and becomes a primary principle, attention is primarily focused outwardly, keen to any changes in the environment to adapt to. The tendency is to let behavior be determined and shaped by the environment, analog to behavioral epigenetics.

When the outside world determines the course of the organization, the inner vision is obscured and the outer world determines the (covert) vision to realize. Better watch out that that vision is aligned with the organization's vision!

Does following the course or plot change as effect of the potential adaptation to a change in environment (sense and respond) lead towards our vision or is the change of course leading astray from our vision? Where does this potential adaptation lead to? Awareness, acuity, wisdom, insight and mindfulness are greatly needed and welcome to be in the knowing and to be able to discern.

To conform of to co-form

When an organization adapts to changes in the outer world, without staying in alignment with its mission in order to realize its vision, the organizations turns from being a responsive organization to a conforming organization. Adapting and conformation leads to uniformity and strays away from unique expression, authenticity and uniqueness - some of nature's characteristics. Nature is not conforming and not uniform, but formative (creative principle, 'forming' without con-), multi-form and unique.

When organization only adjust to the environment organisation are controlled by outer forces and become conforming organizations. Organizations which are conforming won't be creative anymore but only responsive - responsive to what is out there (outside-in movement) instead of being creative by being inspired to what is in here (inside-out movement).

Sense and respond should be balanced by inspire and initiate.

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