This paper aims at contributing to a better knowledge of organizations' nature, physiology and pathologies, in order to improve their fitness for purpose. The mechanistic view of organizations has in fact delayed that. Systems thinking is needed to bring average organizational fitness to the levels needed by a global and closely interconnected world.
The paper is a synthesis of the author's experience as manager, consultant and teacher. By thinking back to the last 30 years of history of managing for quality and excellence, failures and successes, the causes of delay and even regression are explored. Borrowing from the systems view of organizations, a parallel is made between history of human beings' and organizations' healthcare.
Knowledge of the factors that make organizations fit for their purpose is still scarce, absolutely unfit for the challenges of an uncertain future. That is particularly true for those large organizations that govern globalization. Risks for humanity increase. It is no longer time to fiddle with management fads or panaceas for all diseases. It is time to use the modern approaches to complexity that systems thinking offers, overcoming the resistance of traditional thinking. Analytical thinking alone, in fact, may lead to squeeze the planet resources dry, neglecting the risks of long‐term negative impacts.
Conformism in managing for quality is still high. Rare are the papers that discuss the evolution of TQM/excellence models towards systemic models, where the system is socio‐cultural and the model covers doing the right things, not just doing things right.
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