Organizations as Problem Statements

For many today, meaning is the new money. It’s what people are looking for at work. Clear company values, translated into the day-to-day work experience, are one of the strongest drivers of an engaged workforce, one primed for successful collaboration.

—Tammy Erickson, “Meaning Is the New Money,” Harvard Business Review, March 23, 2011

The ultimate goal of every business is to make money. Businesses make decisions about how to best do this based on the capabilities of the founders and what they bring to the table. However, what may make money for a business at the start is seldom what sustains it in the long run; so the biggest challenge for companies is to evolve in ways that enable them to stay relevant.

One approach is to rely on the leaders of the organization to dictate the direction for change at every turn. The difficulty with this approach is that it requires crystal-clear, top-to-bottom communication in order to accurately and effectively transmit the directional shifts to the myriad operational segments that need to implement the changes. What this looks like in practice is a bunch of workers scrambling to implement changes they may or may not understand, even as their leaders are chasing them around to assure that everything is falling in line with the new practices—in a word, micromanaging.

Fortunately, there is another way: Point the organization in the right direction, give individuals a strategy for staying on course, and provide ...

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