Simon Terry

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Running or dancing?

We talk about how companies run. We rarely discuss how they dance.

Our machine metaphor for the organisation leads us to talk of how companies run. Running was an apt metaphor for the industrial organisation with hierarchical management, process orientation, and efficiency as its goal.

Running is domination of a single dimension, distance. Runners maximise efficiency to get the best speed over the distance for their effort. Running is ultimately an individual effort. Running together involves parallel tasks. Running is about individual performance.

The network economy demands Responsive Organisations. We are starting to challenge organisations to be more human, to be more agile, to be more innovative, to learn and ultimately to be more effective. We start to sound like we need an organisation to dance.

Dancing involves exploration of three dimensions. Dancers explore those dimensions for the beauty of the experience. Dancing is a response to changing external stimuli, particularly the movements of others and the music. Dancing is far more interactive and collaborative. Dancing is a performance for the individual and the collective.

We run machines. Humans dance.

What would be different if you asked how well your company danced?

Who says elephants can’t dance? – Lou V Gerstner Jnr


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