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Senior Correspondent

Falling Apart or Coming Together

Falling Apart or Coming Together


"We teach our future business leaders numbers, concepts and theories. We fill their heads, but their hearts are left empty." — Dr. Ichak Adizes

The keynote speaker was Dr. Ichak Adizes, widely acknowledged as one of the world's leading management experts. The audience was prepped and poised, ready to hang onto his every word.

Dr. Adizes took the podium and began to speak in his thick Israeli accent. "Organizations," he said. "They're either falling apart or coming together." The audience was rapt, ready to hear the rest of the story.

Then he slowly made his way from the podium and took his seat. And sat there. And sat there. We were thinking, "Encore, encore! Tell us more, tell us more!" But he continued to sit, appearing quite proud of himself as he surveyed the quizzical faces of the more than 500 professionals who came to hear him.

After allowing his audience plenty of contemplation time, Dr. Adizes took the podium again and began to unveil an organizational development model he called the "corporate life cycle." The corporate life cycle, he said, is very much akin to a human life cycle. Organizations are either growing and developing or they are deteriorating — coming together or falling apart. He detailed how to know where an organization is in its life cycle and how organizations can remain in the prime of their life, no matter their age. 

A memorable lesson, one I have contemplated in various situations for more than a decade. Is this organization falling apart (in decline) or coming together (in renewal)? When we work with various client companies we are quickly able to locate them in the corporate life cycle. It helps us gain a handle on how to best serve them.

As another significant birthday approaches I am reminded of how perfectly this analogy applies to individuals. At any point in our life cycle we are either falling apart or coming together. And apparently it has absolutely nothing to do with age  WHEW!

During one of my freak-out moments it dawned on me that it isn't turning a year older that's making me crazy but that I seemed to have slipped into yet another "come apart." I realized that simply by choosing and committing I could just as easily "come together" in a new and improved version of my original self.

So, it's really about increasing capacity, isn't it? In the case of organizations it's the capacity to continuously improve our service to customers and other stakeholders — the capacity to adapt to ever-changing conditions in the market and the environment while staying on top of and leveraging technology. It's about building leadership and technical capacity for the future.

In the case of individuals it's about continuously improving health and mental capacities. It's about strengthening physical abilities no matter our age and renewing our spirit while remaining true to our personal mission. Warning: This will surely lead to uncomfortable situations  Oy!

For example, my 65th birthday come-apart crisis drove me to explore the wilderness of the weight room at our local Y. I had never even so much as peeked into the weight room. I'd heard that people actually sweat in there.

Ditching my comfort zone, I decided to engage a personal trainer who became my guide in the weight room wilderness. And boy, was I surprised. Who knew I would actually enjoy this awkward adventure? Who knew I would discover my inner body builder — who knew?

I actually look forward to my weight room sessions now. Not because it is such fun, although it is fun, but because it takes everything I've got and then some every single time. Stacy, my trainer, has helped me navigate yet another personal come-apart while building a new sense of can-do around something I was sure I could never do. Yep, I am her personal project. I love it!

"At times you have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. What you will discover will be wonderful. What you'll discover is yourself ."  Alan Alda

Are you falling apart in some area of your professional or personal life? It might it be a good time to create an adventure  a journey into the wilderness to see what possibility for coming together even better might be in store for you.

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