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Maintaining Relevance

From the April 7, 2006 Abilene Reporter-News

An interesting thing about organizations is their ability to outlive the people who give them life.  They are not limited to the life-death cycle that is characteristic of all living organisms.  The Christian Church, for example, is nearly 2,000 years old and still going strong.  It is much older than the pastors, missionaries, or church members that have given it life over the past two millennia.

Long-lived organizations have the ability to continuously attract and maintain relationships with members, supporters, and customers.  As time passes and former associates fall away, new supporters must be brought into organizations for them to remain intact.  The mission, goals, ideals, and offerings of an organization must be transmitted to its future generations of organizational members and those who interact with the organization—supporters and customers.

At the core of all organizations is a dependence on exchange with parties outside the organization.  Without regular exchanges of organizational goods and services for external money and other capital, organizations will eventually go out of business.  When organizational offerings are no longer needed or wanted by those outside the firm, organizational survival will be in jeopardy.  Long firm life requires the effective assessment and alignment of market wants and needs with organizational offerings—which is a process of continuous and constant change and adaptation.  Healthy organizations are those that constantly engage in exploration, discovery, reflection, learning, forecasting, and repositioning.

The same processes at work on organizations that want to remain relevant and viable in the marketplace also apply to the people who give life to organizations.  As organizations respond to new demands in the marketplace, they need workers who can help them meet those demands.  Dramatic changes in technology, communication, information management, and transportation systems have caused businesses to change in many dramatic ways as well.  Organizations need workers who possess the skills and competencies needed to lead, develop, and grow organizations in frenetic and rapidly changing environments.  Workers must find ways to keep themselves valuable and able to contribute to organizational success by continually assessing and aligning their abilities and contributions with the needs of their organizations.  They must constantly engage in exploration, discovery, reflection, learning, forecasting, and repositioning with respect to their career opportunities, skills, competencies, and abilities—otherwise they might find themselves “out of business.”

Organizations must remain relevant and offer something of demand in the marketplace to stay in business.  Likewise, people need to be and remain relevant in the marketplace.   They must enter the workforce with valuable skills and abilities and they must be encouraged and supported by their organizations to gain additional training, education, and experience.  Organizations are people—the interests and abilities of the two are inseparable.  Being relevant in the marketplace is necessary for organizations and workers.  Healthy, vibrant, and relevant organizations are made up of healthy, vibrant, and relevant individuals—they both must constantly seek ways to grow, learn, and position themselves for long-term success.


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2006, 2007, 2008 Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved