In the 21st century, if you are not becoming a Living Organization then you are a dying organization.

In our MBA classes, in our management trainings, and even how we train and orient employees, we view organizations as machines of production. Machines get things done to maximize efficiency. They depend on a small group, usually management, to design their logical flows which make them fairy inflexible and employees are there to serve the machine.

That is why machines can never engage the passion and commitment of employees. Machines focus on the efficiency of transactions not customer experience. They don’t have imaginations: they follow the “way it’s always been done.”

All the things we have come to recognize as important to a 21st century organization’s success—innovation, engagement and agility—are almost impossible to achieve when we try to run our organizations as machines of production.

If we continue down this path, the outcomes will not be pretty. We will struggle to engage employees; we will find it difficult to stimulate an innovative culture. We will continue to alienate customers, and we will constantly suffer defeat by the rapidly changing market dynamics. In short, our organizations are on a death spiral.

This machine model actually worked quite well for the last 100 years and will continue to work if all you care about is efficient production. But more and more we are seeing the limitations and experiencing its failures of such an orientation. As our world has become more volatile, ambiguous, complex and uncertain, we are experiencing the failures inherent in viewing an organization as a machine.

There is another way. Seeing our organizations as Living Organizations. Living Organizations are creative, focused on fulfilling their deepest Soulful Purpose. They are guided by a clear Strategic Compass that is focused but not rigid. A framework that allows it to respond to the changing environment with the fluidity of an improvisational performer. Employees in a Living Organization are its life force, like the cells of the body. They are passionate and engaged in ways that serve them and the organization simultaneously. A living organization knows it is part of an ecosystem and recognizes its interdependence on all elements of that ecosystem. And like every living entity, the Living Organization is there to be of service, positively contributing to the betterment of those it serves.