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Tuesday, January 15, 2013

On Readiness

In his presentation on Enterprise Agility at the SCiO meeting yesterday, Patrick Hoverstadt introduced the concept of Yarak.

In falconry, the word Yarak describes a trained hawk that is fit and in a proper condition for hunting. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word entered the English language in the 19th century, perhaps from Persian yārakī 'strength, ability' or from Turkish yaraǧ 'readiness'.

Patrick explained that Yarak involves a balance between two forces - motivation and strength. The falcon has to be hungry enough to want to hunt, and strong enough to hunt effectively. So the falconer has to get the balance right: too little food and the creature cannot hunt, too much food and it can't be bothered.

When I talk to people about building organizational intelligence in their own organizations, I hear two forms of resistance. One is that the organization has so little inherent intelligence at present that the task is daunting; the other is that the bosses wouldn't want it.

When I take examples from glamorous high-tech companies like Microsoft and Google, this can provoke a somewhat fatalist reaction. People say: This kind of intelligence may be all very well for these hi-tech birds of prey, but ordinary companies like us simply don't have the resources or capability to do any of this stuff. 

So it's important to see examples from ordinary companies as well as from the glamorous ones. Every company has some intelligence, although it may be patchy, fragmented and inconsistent. So we need to find ways of linking and leveraging this intelligence to create a positive spiral of improvement.

As for the question of motivation, there will still be many organizations where the senior management team, perhaps lacking confidence in its own intelligence, will lack enthusiasm for developing intelligence across the rest of the organization. This may be a generation thing - the younger generation of management may be much more comfortable with new styles of management (such as "Theory Y") as well as with social networking and other technologies.

Does this mean we have to wait for a generation, until the current bosses have shuffled off to the golf course or the Caribbean cruise? Not if the organization can start to develop intelligence in a bottom-up piecemeal fashion. In which case, what matters is the motivation and strength of the people and groups across the organization, and not just the motivation and strength of the bosses. Can we achieve some useful results without top-down support?

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