Making sense of organisational health

Making sense of organisational health

McKinsey’s latest findings on organisational health “demonstrate that it remains the best predictor of value creation and a sustainable source of competitive advantage in today’s global marketplace.” Central to their posit is that organisations that practise data-driven decision-making are 63 percent more likely than others to adapt to a changing business environment.

The causes of, and conditions for, organisational health are always changing. Just as medical associations continually update their recommendations on diet and fitness, so must the business community regularly monitor its practices and performance. The companies that do can differentiate themselves from others in the marketplace, however:

“In nature, nothing exists alone.”

Rachel Carson, 1962

Carlson’s observation is that everything you do has an effect somewhere else. One thing can’t live by itself because it is interconnected to everything else. So, if intuitive responses and decisions, as well as logical deduction, are integrated as part of the sensemaking way that people think, make decisions and act, they also inform the concept of organisational health.

Nerve receptors spread throughout the human body provide immediate sensory signals which are then interpreted into the five human senses by the brain. The genius of evolution has enabled humans (with all the inherent problems that brings) to become the super-species on earth, through the combination of hard-wired senses and the ability to create abstract meaning through imagination and belief. In the literal (rather than the oft hackneyed) sense, our evolutionary processes enable us to touch and feel both ‘things’ and ‘situations’.

Yet we live in a world of increasing evidence-driven data, which is why much of our understanding of organisational functioning comes from deep data; detailed and narrowly focused surveys or large-scale consultant-led projects. McKinsey’s health analogy falters on the implied guidance that leaders are best impelled towards a data-driven default, most commonly understood as logic/statistics; but certainly not touch and feel!

Sensemaking (and thus Organisational Sensemaking™), challenges this bias by highlighting the importance of understanding how individuals and groups construct meaning from their experiences and interactions with the world. By understanding sensemaking, we can gain insight into the cognitive and social processes that shape how people understand and make sense of their surroundings.

This represents a nascent opportunity for Tensense, through our expert knowledge of the science and application of Sensemaking, to enhance the way that leaders can quickly make sense of complex and dispersed organisations in a way that narrows attentional focus to those areas most in need of further enquiry and deployment of resource.

By widening the notional definition of organisational ‘health’ to include less obvious sensing/sentiment data, utility can also be gained as a part of predictive analytics, helping organisations to make sense of complex lag data sets and thereby identify patterns or trends that would otherwise be difficult to see or ascribe value.