8. In the Organizational Context

Strategic Organizational Failure
Discern this Closely
Causes for the Failure of Organizations to Adapt

The logic of the seven values is dependent upon their characteristics.

Because the values and their characteristics are universal and innate to each and every person, the morality and ethics that emanate from those values extend to every person on the planet, and by extension to every organization.

As people are social, the morality and ethics of those values extends to all organizations, because logically if there were no people, the organization would not exist. Logically, and reasonably, organizations are extensions of the activities of human values and their motivations, and not exempt from proactive morality and ethics.

Because organizations are not people and have no DNA, those who make decisions on behalf of the organization become morally, ethically, and personally responsible for the actions and results of their decisions made on behalf of that organization.

Strategic Organizational Failure

As old and functional as those seven values are they remained obscure until 2008. Now, their power to produce desired results is obvious. For over 8,000 generations the Homo sapiens species has been making the right survival-decisions because WE ARE HERE TODAY! Tragically, where are the hundreds of societies, cultures, empires, civilizations, dynasties, nations, governments, administration, policies, laws, and all other organizations that developed in the last 30,000 years? 7 They did not survive. None of them have survived as functional societies, though we do see their remnants around us.

History is clear, while our species is sustainable, organizations and governments of every type are not. Fatally, those organizations were not sustainable because they did not have the four primary values embedded in their “organizational DNA.” Because those values and their characteristic are now known, the simplicity of their logic easily lends itself to human organizations. The four primary values have driven us to become adaptable to survive and to fulfill the values that have sustained us. And, it seems reasonable that organizations, as extensions of human activity, can do the same.

Said another way, organizations and governments have not been adaptable because their form, functions, option-development, choice-making and decision-making processes were (and are!) artificially formalized and structured, (man-made), which prevent organizations from adapting to social change that is innate to the people they serve. Without adaptive strategies in place, organizations and governments are not able to learn how to survive the invisible slow creep of social change. It is not that formalized organizations are not capable of adapting to the social changes of the host society, but that they were not designed with an intention to adapt.

Discern This Closely

It is not changing conditions that cause the downfall of societies, but the failure of societies to adapt to those changing conditions. The survival of any species is reflected in their ability to adapt to changing conditions. Adapting means growing when change occurs.

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”.  Charles Darwin

Causes for the Failure of Organizations to Adapt

●  Past and present organizations have not been founded with an intention to become sustainable. Not one was designed to become sustainable, either materially or socially. All took for granted — assumed — that their organization would perpetuate itself into the far distant future.
●  Most importantly, all failed because they were not designed as “learning organizations.” 8 Learning is the result of our urge to grow to improve our quality of life, individually and collectively, and adapt to changing conditions. When organizations internalize the four primary values of social sustainability, (life, equality, growth and quality of life), they will become learning organizations and capable of adapting in response to changing conditions.

●  They failed by not learning from their experiences, and did not keep functional libraries of wisdom to guide them.

●  All historic organizations failed to learn to adapt to changing conditions.


It is a truism that only by having the attribute of adaptability are species able to survive. Logically, historic organizations did not have the attribute of adaptability, and did not survive. Logically, the same innate adaptability of our species needs to be added as a fundamental factor of organizations in order to sustain their survival and to prepare for the uncertainty (V.U.C.A.) of the future.

Two Questions. Comparing our own societies, nations, administrations, and organizations to those that failed to survive in the previous 30,000 years, are our organizations making decisions any differently from those of the failed societies and civilizations? Are the values that are being used today for decision-making at city, county, state, national, and international levels any different from the values that were used in those failed nations?

Tragically, they are the same — and the course of our democratic nations and societies are on the same trajectory as all of the failed cultures and societies that rose to prominence, crested, then declined, disintegrated, and collapsed.


The failure of organizations is due to two factors. First, from those that are environmental – the changing physical-environment. The second, from those that are social – the changing social landscape. To prevent being blindsided by either requires the capability to observe and measure the slow development and rate of change in both.

As an example of the changing physical-environmental factor, the slow change from petroleum based energy to alternative forms began in the early 1960s when petroleum reserves were estimated at then-current use to last only for the next 40 years. Also consider the rapid rise of ocean levels and the global impact to any population within an elevation of 6 meters. This will have a powerful effect on all populations within that elevation range. And then the question becomes, “Who will make those existential, moral, and ethical decisions for those millions of people? Anyone who is now age 40 and below will surely witness these cataclysms.

As an example for both, and observable in the last 30 years is the combination of petroleum and social developments in Venezuela. The inevitable revolution that will come about in that nation could have been totally preventable IF the dictator had been observant of Venezuela’s decreasingly profitable economic base, and the concomitant rise of social discontent.

Taking into account changing physical-environmental issues now is a recognized factor for almost all large scale corporations. Taking into account social change has yet to become an issue of measurement by large-scale public organizations, particularly for political organizations, whether political parties, governmental institutions, or consulting firms.

The remedies for strategic organizational failure. First, begin influencing the decision-making processes (option-development, choice-making, decision-making, and action-implementation) with consideration for the seven values. Continued influence of the seven values will over time move organizations from inevitable failure to the potential of transcending the failure of all societies. Principles-based decision-making has never had the benefit of a logical morality and ethic that are based on the irreducible values that are innate to our species. The following is an excerpt from the website of Hendon Media Group:

”Principle-based decision making is not perfect, nor without its detractors. All rule-based approaches, including principle-based decision making, are criticized for their inflexible application of categorical imperatives, universal laws that must be obeyed regardless of the circumstances. In its strictest form, rule-based thinking requires that we stick to our principles and obey our duty, regardless of our feelings or other mitigating factors.”

By using the seven values the difficulty of “rule-based” thinking that does not take into account our feeling or other mitigating factors would be eliminated. Using the seven values in the Schematic, (page 73), does away with “knee jerk” rule-making, and takes into consideration the mercy that empathy, compassion, and a “Love” for humanity provide.

Second, regular use of these values, morality, and ethics will cause the organization to become adaptable. Because organizations are dependent upon the public and their client base, it is critically essential that the organization develops a means to assess social change of the public and relevant client bases AS IT OCCURS. For democratic organizations this means that citizens at all levels, national-to-local, become an active part of the option-development and choice-making processes of local-to-national issues. 9 Technologically, capturing the collective conscience of the public is easily possible and awaits an ingenious individual to initiate a “public media” website, without self-interest.

7  Diamond, Jared 2005. Collapse – How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Viking, Penguin Group, New York
8  Argyris, Chris., & Schön, D. (1996) Organizational Learning II, Addison Wesley, Reading, MA.
●  Argyris, Chris, Robert Putnam, Diana McClain Smith (1985) Action Science, Concepts, Methods, and Skills for Research and Intervention Jossey-Bass Publishers, San Francisco
●  Argyris, C., & Schön, D. (1978) Organizational Learning: A Theory of Action Perspective, Reading, Mass: Addison Wesley.
●  Senge, Peter (1994) The Fifth Discipline, The Art and Practice of the Learning Organization, Currency Doubleday.
9  Raphael, Daniel 2017 The Progressive’s Handbook for Reframing Democratic Values p 87-90, 99-102, 109.