Calling It As We See It … in Outstanding Organizations


On Monday, I shared some excellent organizational thinking about chaos  from The Outstanding Organization by Karen Martin.

We learned that unrestricted chaos is bad …

Now we find that every problem does not equal chaos.

If we understand the problems we face, we can use tools already available and proven to help us solve them.   Karen’s book is full of specific examples from her experiences using quality tools in a variety of settings.

However, The Outstanding Organization has to master three distinct capabilities to correctly identify and deal with problems:  Problem solving, continuous improvement, and resilience.

Problem Solving …

“Organizations, in almost all cases, are formed to solve a problem – a gap between a  current and desired condition- be it an unmet customer need or a social issue.”

Yes, I know this seems circular.  In order to solve problems, you have to know how to solve problems.    What Karen deftly and clearly describes is the process of learning how to solve problems as a core competency of an organization.  

Not one of the technical skills or a semi-magical process known only to a few … a core competency.   Something which your entire organization values, understands, and is good at doing.

In this discussion, you will find two valuable things:  

1)  Detailed discussion of methods such as “careful problem definition, root cause analysis, evaluation of countermeasures (solutions)” and the like, which you would expect.

2)  A warning that investment in people skills, rather than dependence on specific methods, “matters more”.   I like this:)

Continuous Improvement …

“Continuous improvement is a mindset and a culture that is always 0 every employee, every day 0 looking for opportunities to do the job better, even when the organization is performing at the highest level it ever has.”

This might just be the Holy Grail of quality and process improvement.

Karen makes a very telling point when she adds “… even with the best problem solving you can still be consistently mediocre.”  I immediately think of the old joke about the huge difference between a person with twenty years of experience and another person with one year of experience repeated twenty times.

Resilience …

” … no organization is perfect because each one is made up of imperfect people …. What distinguishes outstanding organizations is their resilience to these slips and stumbles and changing conditions.”

Consider Tylenol’s response in 1982 to customer deaths from tainted products – immediate, proper, and complete … and the company and its products endure.  Compare to the song and dance we more often see from organizations dealing with an “oops“.

Karen correctly reminds us that resilience is mostly learned behavior, so any organization which makes this a priority and devotes resources to becoming more resilient can do so.  She goes a little further to remind us that the ability to respond to challenges and changes is “both an organizational capability and an outcome.”   

In other words, resilience is what creates resilience … and that is not double-talk, it’s the benefit of focus and effort.

The more I read and reflect on Karen’s contributions to organizational improvement through  The Outstanding Organization, the more I find to appreciate and share.  

Enjoying a learning journey in the Heartland ….


Author, speaker, and consultant, Karen Martin, provides practical strategies and tools for building an Outstanding Organization. The Outstanding Organization: Generate Business Results by Eliminating Chaos and Building the Foundation for Everyday Excellence is available at bookstores nationwide and on Amazon


One thought on “Calling It As We See It … in Outstanding Organizations

  1. Pingback: Coaching With Class In The Outstanding Organization … | THE STRATEGIC LEARNER

Comments are closed.