Similarities Between the Human Body and Organizations
By Ichak Kalderon Adizes Ph.D and Louis Teulieres MD
We have been working on a paper on discovering if there are any parallels in our work, mine as a management consultant and his as a medical doctor.
Here are some preliminary findings:
Like an organization, the human body aims to be effective and efficient in the short and long run, and the (PAEI) roles can be identified within functions performed in the body. For instance the adrenal gland provides the (P) role. The thyroid—the mobilizer, the activator—the (E) role. The pituitary gland controls the thyroid; that is your (A).
There are neuro-mediators that also perform the (PAEI) roles: dopamine the (P) role; gamma-Aminobutyric acid, or GABA, the (A) role; serotonin the (I) role. As Dr. Teulieres described to me people who have too much GABA, I was finishing his sentences. He was describing a bureaucrat.
The activity of the glands changes over a person’s lifecycle. Here he and I also found commonalities. With a baby, the thyroid is very active, much more so than the adrenal gland. In adolescence the pituitary gland’s activity goes up and the thyroid’s down.
This was a confirmation for me that the growth of (A) in organizational adolescence should not be at the expense of (P)—as I have claimed for years, described and prescribed it in my book on lifecycles, but about which I was having doubts—but at the expense of (E). First, because (E) precedes (P), (E) should decline before (P); and second, and even more important, that is what happens in reality. That is what was happening in organizations everywhere, and my fighting it was not working. This means there is a reason for this behavior, and the human body analogy confirmed it for me.
An even more exciting insight from our interaction was the following: As we were discussing how the different parts of the body perform the (PAEI) functions, he said, “There is no chief, no one organ that manages it all.”
What about the brain, I thought to myself. Aha! There is no ONE brain. There is the left brain, where the (PA) roles are performed, and the right brain, where the (EI) roles are performed.
So what manages the totality?
No one. The system manages itself.
It is a system in which every part performs its role well. That is Socrates’ definition of a perfect system.
The system is what manages itself.
What is a system? Every part has a function (structure) and there is a predetermined functioning between the parts (process). Every part has to be healthy to start with (the people component on the Adizes map), and the mind-body relationship has to be healthy (vision values on the Adizes map).
What makes the system healthy is the transparency, the flow of energy between the parts. How? It must be synergetic and symbiotic.
What should the analogy be for organizational management? The role of management is to establish the system and see to it that the system functions well. When it does not function well, it is management’s role to fix it.
Who performs this role in the human body? God made the system. Evolution developed the system over millions of years. But who manages it now?
Our consciousness. Yes, our consciousness. We have to be conscious when some parts of the body do not function well, when the energy does not flow well, when we are sick and take measures to heal ourselves. Not by chemicals (not by consultants), but by creating an environment in which the body can take care of itself and heal itself.
That is the Adizes training and development programs, where we create an environment and teach how to operate in it, where the parts of the organization heal themselves and thus heal the organization.
So the role of management is “to create an environment where the most desirable will most probably happen” to quote the CEO of Ogden Corporation from many years back.
Management’s role is to be the thumb, to enable the other four fingers to act as a hand.
Notice that there is no gland that performs the (I) role. (I) is all over the place. Every part of the body is involved in (I). Also there is no specific gland for (A), for GABA. Each part of the body is involved in it. In other words, no one part of the body provides the “glue.” All parts of the body contribute the “glue.” (A) and (I) are the system. (P) and (E) are what make the system function.
Also interesting to note is that GABA and serotonin are inversely related: More GABA means less serotonin, and vice versa. That confirms the inverse relation between (I) and (A).
When people get older they seek more serotonin, more (I). They like more sugar and chocolate. And women, who are typically more (I) oriented, love sugar and chocolate more than men. Older people are not so much after meat; they do not seek much (P). In aging, (P) goes down.
There are more similarities we discovered, and this is going to be an exciting paper to write. We are adding a brain doctor and a psychologist as authors, and it will be even more fascinating to see what other similarities we can find and what can be learned from them.
If anyone familiar with medicine cares to react to this blog we would appreciate the input. We are totally in the exploratory stages.