Mindful Organizations

Mindful Organizations

Nov 20, 2012

During this week of giving thanks, I must acknowledge my gratitude for working in an organization that I would deem as highly functioning.  I joined UNH’s Office for Research Partnerships and Commercialization (ORPC) during a time when the office was in flux and in the process of hiring a new director.  Since then, the group has blossomed like an apple tree, now with many branches bearing ripe and exquisite fruit.

There are three elements to a high functioning organization: the organizational culture, the employees, and the manager. Each has its unique role and impact related to creating a high functioning organization. To quote Colin Powell, “Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t much matter. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”

Good managers model the same behaviors as good employees, at a higher level and with higher stakes, because their behavior is infectious to their entire department and across departments. Teams work when they have effective transparency, open conversation, and collaboration. Teams fail when there is an absence of trust, fear of conflict, lack of commitment, avoidance of accountability, and inattention to results.  High employee morale is less frequently the result of parties, activities and incentives than it is an organizational culture that is open, honest, knows the importance of each employee, has high expectation and will not settle for less, and rewards excellence.  In a high-functioning team, people enjoy their work; obstacles become challenges that are fun to take on, rather than annoyances to be endured.

Mindful organizations allow individuals to interact continuously as they develop, refine and update a shared understanding of the situation they face and their capabilities to act on that understanding. Mindful organizations proactively trigger actions that forestall and contain errors and crises. Mindful organizations require leaders and organizational members to be attentive to shaping the social and relational infrastructure of the organization, and to establishing a set of interrelated organizing processes and practices, which jointly contribute to the overall culture of a highly effective team and high functioning organization.

I thank Jan Nisbet, VP Research for taking minutes on my behalf at the NHIRC Oversight Committee meeting,  an indication of willingness to do “whatever it takes” no matter what one’s job level .  I thank my manager, Marc Sedam for being available when needed, especially with affirmations.  I thank my office mate, Paige Smith for influencing me take it down a notch and be thorough.  I thank Maria Emanuel for collaborative problem solving.  I thank Erica Johnson and the IOL for ensuring their corporate partnerships are properly protected.  I thank our newest licensing managers, Tristan Carrier and Tim Willis for diving in, getting up to speed instantly and daring to take risks and have fun.  I thank Chris Baxter, our intern from UNH Law for embracing the KSS database & teaching me its nuances.  And I thank Ron Filius, my workstudy student of two years+ who is reliable, independent and brings a smile and sunshine to our office.

To learn more about our organization, click here.  To learn more about the people on our team, click here.  To acknowledge that we’re high functioning, send a note to Gretchen.Smith@unh.edu and I’ll pass it along to our team.

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