Survival and Growth

I just started reading Arie de Geus' book The Living Company, and found in the first few pages a clear echo of Chester Barnard's The Functions of the Executive. Both emphasize the centrality of survival and growth ("thriving"). Here is Arie de Geus writing about the topic: 

Like all organisms, the living company exists primarily for its own survival and improvement: to fulfill its potential and to become as great as it can be. It does not exist solely to provide customers with goods, or to return investment to shareholders, any more than you, the reader, exist solely for the sake of your job or your career. After all, you, too, are a living entity. You exist to survive and thrive; working at your job is a means to that end...

If the real purpose of a living company is to survive and thrive in the long run, then the priorities of managing such a company are very different from the values set forth in most of the modern academic business literature. Such a purpose also contradicts the views held by many managers and shareholders. To be sure, many management fashions resonate with the idea of a learning company—for example, the concepts of the "learning organization" and "knowledge as a strategic asset." But there are serious doubts that even the most enthusiastic managers and shareholders have fully explored the ramification of these concepts.   

Before writing all this, Arie de Geus, a long-time Shell employee, had led Shell's Group Planning study on the longevity of companies. The study had concluded that companies live longer depending on their (1) sensitivity to the environment, (2) cohesion and identity, (3) tolerance (and as a corollary, decentralization), and (4) conservative financing, which gives rise to an ability to govern one's own growth and evolution effectively.  

Comments:

Why do they equate thriving (staying healthy) with growth (getting larger)?

Posted by Richard Veryard on March 08, 2009 at 08:15 PM PDT #

I recently came across your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I don't know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.

Sarah

http://www.lyricsdigs.com

Posted by Sarah on March 08, 2009 at 10:46 PM PDT #

Richard - That's actually one of their differences. Barnard emphasizes growth; Arie de Geus emphasizes thriving.

Posted by M. Mortazavi on March 08, 2009 at 11:21 PM PDT #

سلام آقای مرتضوی ، خوشحالم که یه ایرانی تو سان کار میکنه
خیلی وقتهاست که وبلاگ تون رو میبینم و از مطالبش استفاده میکنم
من هم 4 5 سالی هست که با سیستم های تحت وب جاوا اینترپرایز کار میکنم واگه خدا بخواد 2 سال دیگه میرم کانادا واسه ادامه تحصیل و کار
راستش اگه یه سوال بپرسم که الان کدوم تکنولوژی ها هستند که اگه روشون سرمایه گذاری کنم برگ برنده ای تو کانادا دارم
درسته سوالم یه کم بچه گانه هست ولی میخوام مطالعه و تحقیقاتمو متمرکز کنم
من خودم بیشتر رو زمینه وب معنایی semantic web
و سیستم های ERP
رو بیشتر ترجیح میدم یا برم سمت دیتابیس و ...
اگه راهنمایی کنین ممنون میشم
وقت شما را گرفتم معذرت میخوام

Posted by Y.SH on March 09, 2009 at 06:51 AM PDT #

"It does not exist solely to provide customers with goods, or to return investment to shareholders, any more than you, the reader, exist solely for the sake of your job or your career."

This sentence makes me a little worried. I still think that companies should exist only to attend their "raison d'être". When companies start behaving like living organisms, the human individuality of the members may be shadowed in order to build a single personality. Anyway, just a thought.
Nice blog, by the way.

Posted by P. Fracarolli on March 11, 2009 at 11:24 PM PDT #

"It does not exist solely to provide customers with goods, or to return investment to shareholders, any more than you, the reader, exist solely for the sake of your job or your career."

This sentence makes me a little worried. I still think that companies should exist only to attend their "raison d'être". When companies start behaving like living organisms, the human individuality of the members may be shadowed in order to build a single personality. Anyway, just a thought.
Nice blog, by the way.

Posted by P. Fracarolli on March 11, 2009 at 11:30 PM PDT #

P. Fracarolli - You have a very good point that needs further exploration. I think in the "living company" model, the author only parallels "survival" and "growth"/"thriving" ... here ... The bigger worry for me is the fact that in the "living company" model a great deal of emphasis is put on the concept of community whose relationship to other human activities such as science, art and religion are barely explore.

Posted by M. Mortazavi on March 12, 2009 at 12:30 PM PDT #

Y.SH - I don't really know what kind of advice to give you. A good friend of mine likes to say that software changes faster than fashion. You may want to focus on developing your system understanding. Also, developing your understanding of how enterprise software components help bring value to enterprises would also be a worthy effort. So, I think your desire to learn more about ERP systems and about Semantic Web makes good sense. The important idea here is that you should develop a system perspective and learn how various technologies fit into their physical contexts.

Posted by M. Mortazavi on March 12, 2009 at 12:33 PM PDT #

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