The 3 Inviolable Rules of Authentic Organizations

by cv harquail on September 17, 2008

crazy street sign arrows

While working on some ideas in the pipeline, I realized that I have a few absolutes about what defines when organizations are being authentic. I’ve tried to whittle these down to their basic descriptions and to take away a bit of the specificity that makes the ideas seem academic and/or too complex.  Here are these three absolutes, for your consideration.

1. An authentic organization’s identity reflects and articulates what is true. The authentic organization tells the truth about itself to itself.  The truth can be positive, negative, and/or partial in ways that highlight certain characteristics, but the identity must be based on self-refection and candor.

2. An authentic organization’s image can differ from the organization’s identity only when the image expresses  what the organization is working to become. The image can be aspirational, but it cannot be purely fictional. If the image is what the organization is hoping to become, or pretending to become, it is not authentic.

3. An authentic organization’s actions have to reflect an honest effort to demonstrate the qualities that matter to the organization and that define who it is.  These behaviors can be incomplete, clumsy, provisional and experimental, and still be authentic, if they are efforts to put into action who the organization is and wants to become.

hmmm on placard striatic flickr

Just some ideas to reflect on.


Mark Goodyear October 9, 2008 at 11:16 pm

# 1 can be pretty tricky because it’s so easy to be self-deceived. That’s one reason why I really value outside consultants for helping an organization see itself accurately.

CV Harquail October 10, 2008 at 8:33 am

Mark– It is so easy to be self-deceived– In the best case, there are insiders and/or processes that help an organization see itself (more) accurately and completely. But, an outsider like a consultant can be a great way to get this feedback. Consultants walk a tight line, I’ve found, when they want to offer critical feedback yet need to sustain a close relationship with the organization’s leadership in order to be heard. The consultant can’t be a sycophant, and the organization’s leaders have to be receptive. So it’s a challenge any way you try to give feedback— and quite worth it. Thanks so much for your comment. cvh

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