On My Mind: Organizational Lenses



Facebook Share Icon LinkedIn Share Icon Twitter Share Icon Share by EMail icon Print Icon

Organizations are commonly analyzed using three perspectives or lenses: strategic, political and cultural. When applied to the workings of a company, each lens reveals many different traits and qualities.

The strategic lens examines the flow of tasks and information, or how you get things done. Using this lens, one looks to optimize work flow to meet the goals and objectives of the company. Because of its close tie to the bottom line, the strategic lens is the one most often used to analyze companies. However, that does not mean it is the most important.

While the impact on the bottom line is more subtle, the political and cultural lenses still play a large role in determining the potential success of a company.

The political lens looks at how power and influence are distributed and wielded in an organization as well as the preferences of the individuals and groups who lay claim to power. Remember, owners are not the only ones with power. Customers, suppliers, government regulators and employees all have different degrees of power (just look at the labor union in the automotive industry). If you understand who has power and what their motives are, you can begin to predict what decisions will be made. This knowledge can then begin to guide your own decisions as well.

Probably the least used perspective, the cultural lens is used to observe how a company's history and past actions have shaped employees' assumptions and have affected their future actions. We've all heard the popular refrain, "But that's how we've always done it." While the culture of an organization typically unfolds over time, it can be shaped and developed to provide direction and leadership.

Using these lenses can help you find ways to better align your company's structure, resources and feel with its goals, environment and industry. While we like to use the strategic lens, all three are equally important.

I encourage you to look at your company, plant, department or team using these three lenses. What you see may surprise you. And, if nothing else, it will get your mind off the economy and world affairs.