The third phase began to emerge in the literature around the late 80s and early 90s and is now becoming more recognized in the life of corporations. I have called this stage the Spiritual stage, not because of its relationship to religion or any specific spiritual path, but because it has all the elements found in spiritual literature.
This phase calls for organizations to operate with a sense of purpose and meaning. It is also integrative and holistic. Holistic in that there is now a recognition that an organization is comprised of many sub entities that must operate as a single integrative unit. All the parts must collaborate or coordinate for the whole to be effective. The key to bringing the organization together is its deeper purpose, it very reason for existing. It also calls for organizations to be constantly seeking new knowledge on which to grow and build and this is the third attribute of a Spiritual organization, questioning and learning. And finally the fourth attribute is compassion and humility. Even the greatest of organizations are toppled when they believe they are better than another. But with humility we recognize that no matter how great we become we are still connected to every other organization in the world in a massive ecosystem. And what hurts one organization in the end hurts us all.
Lest people think this is all well and good but how does it help me achieve the performance required, how does this make any difference to the bottom line.
To answer that we must first look at the failings of the first two stages. The machine stage is great at refining the processes on which the organization depends and when it comes to improving efficiencies there is now better set of attributes to use to guide our decisions. But the best tuned engine will go nowhere without high grade fuel to drive it. The fuel in and organization is the energy of the people and so the second stage emerged guiding leaders to empower the people. Yet as I pointed out in the previous post, the OD efforts are often stymied because it is in competition with making the machine work better. Besides since the machine stage is driven mostly by metrics that are relatively easy to define, it dominates the rational thinking business is predicated on.
So we can fine tune the machine or we can improve the quality of the fuel (the engaged and energized workforce) but the problem is that it is either / or. What is required is to integrate the two with the AND condition improve the machine AND increase the energy and engagement of the workforce, which is the very essence of the third stage.