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Organisational resilience: Lean and the golden ratio


Netmind - Organisational resilience: Lean and the golden ratio    Article | Agile DevelopmentSubArea
Guillermo López | 09/01/18

There are countless articles related with organisational changes. In this article we will not discuss organisational change, but will outline the application of Lean principles and the golden ration in organisational design, in the same way as an architect would design a beautiful structure, in balance, able to resist shocks and the passage of time.

 

Over 2000 years ago, a great philosopher said “Change is the only constant; all organisms are constantly changing and must evolve to survive the constant variation of their surroundings”.

 

Organisations, as living organisms made up of individuals carrying out business functions to form a central nervous system of processes, are also subject to strategic changes, structural changes, regulatory changes and technological changes, and must try to ensure their sustainability in the mid and long-term. Some achieve this and others, regardless of their size, will be left behind in oblivion.

 

All organisations, as an adapting living being, will be subjected to pressure to seek their balance. These internal forces will be subject to the organisational capacity for distributing work between different individuals and departments that form them, to respond to the intensity of a change which may on occasion be traumatic and make them stronger – organisational resilience.

 

 

Nature offers us examples which, behind their apparent fragility hide a resilient structure which gives them the ability to bear great pressure on their extremes without breaking, such as an egg, a natural structure with a perfect balance of forces.

 

Balance is beauty and the basis for resilience. A balanced organisation is beauty in motion, where information flows, departments collaborate with each other, there is a common effort in the system, a sense of each individual belonging to a group, where each activity is oriented toward value for the client. Balance is the protection of the organisation against entropy and is what will allow an organisation, in the same way as a perfect architectural structure, to distribute the pressure of external changes on its structure, distributing pressure and the uncertainty of the changing environment between the different individuals and departments that make up the whole, and who will have learned to collaborate to recover balance in the shortest time possible, with the least economic impact and ensuring an improved future state with regard to the initial state.

 

However, key to a resilient organism is the order hidden behind the immense complexity of the galaxies, the form of crystals in nature, the beauty of the sound of the notes of a Stradivarius violin, the mystery hidden behind the smile of the Mona Lisa, the distribution of thousands of leaves on trees to achieve the maximum sun exposure, the proportion of drones and females in beehives, the number of petals on flowers which are picked by lovers saying “they love me, they love me not”, the proportions of the pyramids, the Parthenon, the Eiffel tower, the balanced beauty of the frescoes of the Sistine Chapel or an apple. Euclid called it the golden ratio in 300BC, and it is an irrational number with indefinite values, capable of containing the inexplicable infinity of beauty and the resilience of natural organisms; a constant proportion which remains unaltered by changes, a golden proportion, capable of placating entropy.

 

If we were able to design an organisation using the golden ratio, in the same way as the pyramids or the Parthenon were designed, we would make our organisation resilient, giving it an agile, adaptable structure oriented toward high performance, focused on the capacity of individuals to learn from mistakes and continuously improve. All these principles are structural elements of an organisation which follows Lean principles, in which individuals collaborate to find better ways of doing things each day:

  • Eliminating waste
  • Increasing quality
  • Reducing times
  • Improving client satisfaction through a constant search for simplicity and speed in processes.

 

However, the golden ratio hides an even stronger relationship with Lean in its definition, based on which we can say that Lean is a model for organisational transformation oriented toward ensuring resilience in the long-term and that the golden ratio is an essential unit of measurement that we will apply to balance each one of the structures that make up the Lean organisation. It is no coincidence that the golden ratio is defined as the division of a linear segment into two parts, so that the longer part divided by the smaller part is also equal to the whole length divided by the longer part.

 

This formula explains the universal complexity of balanced forms, and is as easy as Lean, as the side and scale of each department in the organisation should be in proportion with the rest and also with the whole, so that the full organisational structure, as a system, ensures the beauty of the balance and the resilient strength of the whole.

 

A good organisational architect should be able to apply this golden ratio to balance and linearise the different organisational departments: business, information technology, purchasing, HR, and marketing, in order to:

  • Balance the value chains,
  • Define shared performance units oriented toward client value,
  • Transform the organisation through:
    • Visual management
    • Dialogue on performance
    • The leadership coach able to empower and challenge individuals, to continuously seek and reduce waste

 

Organisational transformation will be achieved if individuals are changed, changing their way of thinking, acting and behaving, and as someone once said, it will therefore be necessary to get into the head of each individual, which is not possible without first reaching their heart. However, changing people without changing the environment is a drop in the ocean. The environment must be changed while changing people while ensuring that people contribute and sustain the change of the environment, as a developing system of creative pressure based on continuous improvement and learning as necessary behaviour for reaching the golden ratio of their structure.

 

We conclude by indicating that Lean principles define a simple route for organisational linearisation, which a good organisational architect must always take into account at all times, seeking balance between uneven aspects such as business and IT, purchasing and IT, etc.; and between individuals with concerns and different priorities such as development and operations. Their great challenge will be to teach each individual and department to be able to apply the golden ratio, in the same way as the natural law applies, so that only the most agile organisms survive, however small and haphazard they seem, governed by an irrational number of infinite values, which can overcome the entropy that surrounds us.

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