April 2010

How organizations grow

I wanted to share some thoughts with you about how organizations grow.

Many places try to do that by acquiring other organizations, seeking such benefits as “economies of scale” (aka saving money). Though savings like those always sound enticing, at least on paper, we’ve had opportunities recently to go that route, and decided not to.

The reason is that the advantages of acquiring another institution depend entirely on blending different cultures. And unless you succeed in doing that, they never come to pass. With the attempted merger a decade or so ago, we learned that from experience.
You can combine financial books and certain services by deciding to, providing you’re willing to work hard at it. But institutional identities are another matter altogether.

To my mind, the question thus becomes: do you go for bigger-is-by-definition better? In my heart, I don’t believe that’s true. I think strategy must reflect values, just as personal choices do.  

So our path involves forging the strongest possible identity we can—clearly defining, and living by, what we stand for.  We will grow, organically, because our outcomes make us better.