Is a company the sum of its parts ?

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It is interesting to hear people sometimes referring to their company as a person; the company did or said this, what my company has (or not) done for me, etc. But a company is not a person, it does not have self-awareness or own will, it is the individuals that make up an organization who are actually posing actions.

But it is true that enterprises have their own ‘macro’ behaviours which result from the combination of all the behaviours of its human constituting elements. These macro behaviours may sometimes defy common sense.

I was recently reading an LinkedIn post by a dissatisfied customer of an airplane company which was obviously not delivering service to the expected level. This customer was convinced that this was all part of the company strategy, that this was all planned. That could of course be a possible explanation, but this deteriorated quality of service may also be a symptom of a company which is not functioning well. One or more of its key “organs” may potentially not be working or collaborating properly.

These “organs” and their interactions is the “metabolism” of the company i.e. all the vital functions, processes and resources of the enterprise. If only one fails or lacks, the overall health of the enterprise is at risk and as a consequence the company is unable to deliver at the expected level despite of the efforts of each of its employees taken individually.

This dissatisfied customer stated that the airplane company was acting deliberately against their customers interest but there is an implicit statement behind this : the company is functioning properly. But is it ? do we really have here a company that is functioning efficiently and willingly apply a strategy going against its customers interest ?

Experience shows that few companies are actually functioning in an optimum fashion, there is always something to improve on the business value critical path. This is most probably the case for this airplane company example. Cynicism is also less probable than internal dis-functioning (I hope). So no, companies rarely pull the best of their available resources.


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