Human Systems and the humble organization

HS Leadership Principle #3: The Humble Organization

This leadership principle is part of the Organizational Health series: 15 principles that relate to the overall health of your organization. Other Human Systems Leadership Principles are contained in the Change Management, Community Embedding, Mutual Empowerment, and Ethics categories.

Organizational Health

Just as exercise, healthy eating, meditation, and other healthy lifestyle choices support the long-term health of the human body, the Human Systems Organizational Health Leadership Principles support the long-term health of your organization. By following these principles, you invest in the sustainability and longevity of your organization, as well as minimize burnout and turnover.

HS Leadership Principle #3: The organization demonstrates a primary focus on the quality of services/products for service users/customers.

This principle speaks to the broad, practical application of Human Systems’ Leadership Principle #1, which is an organization-wide common understanding of the mission. With the application of HS Leadership Principle #3, we are concerned with the ultimate outcome of our organizational endeavors for our customers or clients.

There are a few different theories about why organizations exist. Some researchers believe that organizations are the physical incarnation of capitalism. Some believe that organizations exist to provide purpose and social fulfillment for their employees. Others believe that they can and should be used to promote social welfare and equality. I think all of these can be true, but in this post, I will be focusing on exploring how all our organizational activities can be geared towards understanding the needs of our clients and how we can best fulfill those needs in relation to our product.

An obvious example of an organization that has created a product that in some ways demonstrates a radical understanding of customer needs is, of course, Apple. Their products address the full spectrum of customer needs: user friendliness, attractive design, excellent customer service. Perhaps where they depart is in their extreme adherence to proprietary technology. Users of Apple must be willing to buy into the entire Apple identity and all the (often expensive) accessories that come with it, including proprietary chargers, apps, software, etc. Of course, Apple’s approach has not really changed since its inception; this company, for better or worse, has always consistently stuck to their guns when it comes to requiring that their users to be satisfied with non-transferrable technology.

Apple’s exclusivity is part of the power of their brand. Their product quality, coupled with proprietary technology, has translated into a cult following and huge profits. It’s quite possible that producing a quality product that can be used with any old charger or piece of software might not have resulted in such a high-profile, elite brand with the accompanying profit. I’d like to argue, however, that the Apple philosophy related to proprietary technology is a kind of organizational egotism that is working now, but will ultimately be unsuccessful because it is a philosophy that is focused on the product as benefiting the organization in the form of continued profit, and not the user.

Leadership that truly focuses on all of its customer needs will most likely not have a brand characterized by exclusivity and a cult following. An organization that adheres to HS Leadership Principle #3 is characterized by true humility – a willingness to set aside all ego and refrain from using marketing and branding to shape their client’s wants. Instead, the humble organization exists to serve – to find out what the customer truly needs, how the product can fulfill some or all of those needs, and how to get the product to the customer. In many ways, this orientation is like an organizational-level incarnation of servant leadership.

I would love your comments on how you think your organization, or organizations you know, are demonstrating HS Leadership Principle #3.

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