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November 1st: Torsten Jacobi, CEO of Creative Weblogging, joins host Anita Campbell. Sponsored by Six Disciplines. Show details.
Wednesday, September 22, 2004
DNA & The Organization
Organizational DNA is a topic growing in visibility. Interest in it is trending upward, as is its influence on the business world. I Googled the phrase today and got 741 hits. A search at Amazon.com turned up 30 books.

Booz Allen Hamilton's annual rating of the value of its newly developed intellectual capital, which this year included the judgments of individuals visiting their website, listed organizational DNA number one. Booz Allen seems to be a leader in the exploration of organizational DNA and its impact on businesses large and small. In the past year they have:

DNA is used as a metaphor for the intrinsic attributes of an organization. An organization's DNA is made up of its criteria for:

  • Examining opportunity and risk
  • Selecting and retaining people
  • Processing information
  • Distributing resources

An organization's DNA governs its existence in the same way biological DNA governs an organism's life.

The concept of organizational DNA is particularly interesting because it is one of the few metaphors applied to businesses and other organizations that has been organic. Most of the widely accepted metaphors have been along the lines of the reengineering craze of recent years. While these approaches have resulted in valuable examination of how organizations do things, they are not as good at illuminating the why. Why is a motivational question. People, not machines, have motivations. Organizations are made up of people with their emotions and thought processes. Organizations are collective organisms. As such it's time to view them through an organic rather than a mechanistic lens.

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