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When we think of extraordinary organizations, we often think of exceptional leaders driving high performance. Think Howard Schultz at Starbucks, Steve Jobs at Apple, or Christine Day at lulu lemon. These are the outstanding examples of charismatic leadership, unwavering mission, and clear vision that set the pace for organizational behaviour in terms of the way things should be done. While most great ideas begin with a vision, when it comes to maintaining a great culture and carrying out that vision, many organizations face challenges.

Organizations in Formation

Great organizations don’t just suddenly emerge. In fact, most go through an elaborate maturity continuum before reaching their current level of success.

With public sector organizations, volunteers come together to meet a community need. As the organization grows and expands, staff are hired, and more formal mechanisms are put in place to ensure the mission and specific objectives are carried out appropriately.

In the private sector, instead of a group of volunteers, it’s generally an entrepreneur who has an original vision. He or she is solely responsible for defining organizational objectives and in many cases, even delivering the product or service. As a company experiences growth, support staff works closely with the entrepreneur who can no longer handle the demands of increased output. Staff members are typically intimately involved and usually more aware of the entrepreneur’s vision. As the business expands, the right culture of participation makes it easy for the entrepreneur’s passion and charisma to permeate through the organization.

Maturing Organizations

With growth comes challenges and very clear distinctions begin to emerge between public and private organizations. At some point, all successful businesses need to hire people to do the work. Whether it’s a bookkeeper to ensure funds are managed appropriately, a programming team, an executive director, or an elaborate group of managers, people are put in place, creating chains of accountability and authority throughout the organization.

Challenges arise when the organization expands to the point of needing multiple layers of managerial staff. The increasing numbers of employees, and the intervening layers of management create filters between the top of the organization and the front line workers. The charisma of the leader or the vision for the company are no longer sufficient in themselves as the participatory culture and intimate nature of the business begins to falter. At this point, it’s critical to ensure the original vision and mission is appropriately understood moving forward by implementing appropriate organizational systems.

Culture, vision and mission are important aspects of organizational effectiveness. As companies begin to grow and hire people to meet objectives, it can become challenging to ensure the original vision is articulated, delegated, and carried out appropriately. For both public and private organizations, it’s essential that frameworks of accountability and authority are well defined.