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If “No Man is an Island”, then “Every Individual Matters!”

As a human being you cannot survive on your own. It doesn’t matter how capable or self-sufficient you consider yourself to be, it is practically impossible. Interdependence is an inescapable fact of life. If you are a manager or leader, you definitely depend on other people to achieve results. And, even if you aren’t, you are still likely to rely on other people to be able to get your job done. This makes managing relationships an essential life-skill.

John Donne encapsulated this when he said, “No man is an island, entire of itself: every man is a piece of the continent.” For most of us, this “continent” is the organisation where we work. This is significant because, if you are a “piece” of the organisation, it makes the organisation itself the ‘framework of relationships.’ This begs the question, “To what extent do you recognise this and regard your organisation as a ‘framework of relationships.’?

This is perhaps a more profound question than you may think. Why? It makes your people paramount. After all, looking at relationships inevitably means beginning with your people. And that is a complete inversion of the traditional management approach. Yet it isn’t perhaps as radical as it may first seem.

You can best appreciate the idea if you think about your organisation as a water pipe. The quality of the water the pipe delivers and the pressure of the flow, ultimately depends on the quality of both the process and the pipe.

Waste _ 50408274_s

A pipe full of holes means that you are faced with considerable leakage and considerably reduced pressure. Plus, any break in the flow could allow impurities or other undesirable elements to infiltrate the water. Lack of employee engagement has a similar effect. You may not consider this to be a problem if your customer is satisfied with the end result and your other stakeholders are not aware of, or concerned about, the waste. But just think how much better your performance and the results would be if your pipe didn’t have all those holes.

Trickle 7441848_sLooking only at the trickle at the end, you have no idea whether the flow is normal or not, or whether it is even the best you can expect. Well, you are in a pretty similar situation when you do not start with your people. You have no means of identifying whether there are holes in your pipe or of gauging the potential loss; which is likely to be significant.

Thus all I am asking is that you continue to accept the more familiar piece of John Donne’s quote that “No man is an island” and revise it as “No man is an island, therefore every individual matters.” For, if you recognise your organisation as a “framework of relationships”, you will understand the addendum not just as a corollary but also as an imperative for the well-being of your organisation.  

After all, it is true: ‘Every Individual Matters.’  

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