Program Note, much of this blog was formed and used as responses to discussion assignments at the University of Phoenix. The assignments were completed first and this is mentioned to avoid plagiarizing myself. This topic is vital to understanding hierarchy in organizations, understanding labor unions, and creating an organizational culture of respect.
The question was raised, “Can an organization exist within another organization?” The short answer is absolutely. The human body is a perfect example of this principle as it forms symbiotic relationships with all its systemic organizations to maintain the health of the whole body. Applying the principle of symbiosis to a business organization is very possible and advocated.
The principle of symbiosis is simple: mutual dependence or reasoning that the overall health of the two organizations is improved by working together. The opposite of symbiosis is virus. The principle work of a virus is to take from the host in an adversarial capacity, regardless of the host’s physical/mental/ spiritual health or future well being.
The body has been reported to form viral and symbiotic relationships to improve the life and well being of the host. Biological research explains the benefits of viral and symbiotic relationships to the host or body, long and short term, and why and how they work. I mention this solely because I do not want a perception to be fostered of virus equals bad and symbiosis equals good. Shen (2009) writes about the need for study into beneficial viruses as a method for fighting disease and improving the biological organization.
Biology has a direct bearing upon organizational design, organizational change, and organizational hierarchies, to name but a few practical applications for benchmarking biology into organizational leadership. As an example, vendors and customers form vital links with a host organization; the most important of each party becomes a stakeholder in that organizational host. Both parties could form a viral or symbiotic positive or negative relationship, and both positive and negative relationships can be beneficial to the host organization.
A recent event in the airline industry demonstrates the principles of symbiosis and virus in action. Many unions in the airline industry cross between hosts. For example, the pilot’s union crosses between US Airways and American Airlines. American Airlines pilots go on strike for more money, but the US Airways pilots do not go on strike. Current events declare what happened next, the unions banded together against the American Airlines host and forced a merger between American Airlines and US Airways.
Had the unions been in a symbiotic relationship the pilots and the managers at American Airlines would honestly communicate intentions, desires, and come up with a plan that benefits all sides in a win-win solution. Always remembering, the host “American Airlines” provides parties, the managers and pilots, in the labor dispute with paychecks, employment, and other benefits, so the life of the host should be of paramount concern. Other interested parties in this discussion are the airplane mechanics unions, the ticket counter unions, the steward/stewardess unions, and other parties such as airport organizations, flight controllers, and the American Airlines customers. Many people depend upon the life of the host organization for their livelihoods, just as the entire body depends upon the life-processing resources of the heart.
The question remains, is the distinction clear enough? When unions choose to be viral, they force concessions from the host, initiate mergers for personal power, and run to friendly judges and governments to empower themselves, regardless of the host. Hostess was forced into receivership because of the labor unions closing a well known brand and destroying the lives of millions of customers and thousands of union and non-union employees.
Those in the labor dispute have a choice to make based upon their perceptions and intentions: whether to become a virus, consuming or confiscating resources until the host is exhausted of physical and/or intellectual assets, damaged, and destroyed or to be symbiotic in nature and find mutually beneficial ground, compromising and negotiating desires to facilitate the survival of the host as well as its own survival. Each customer, vendor, stakeholder, etc., faces this decision in dealing with the host: Is it better to negotiate or not to negotiate? If the answer is affirmative, symbiosis is beginning. If the answer is negative, a viral position has been decided.
Long have I maintained that the study of biology improves organizations; knowing how to differentiate between viral and symbiotic organizations provides the distinction to guide organizational change and even conduct day-to-day operations. For example, being able to identify contractors based upon the principles of virus and symbiosis can safeguard the entire host organization. A contractor representing a virus will confiscate or consume resources and return waste. A contractor representing symbiosis will use resources to magnify or increase the value and health of the host organization. The differentiation is not so much a discussion of dollars and cents as it is the distinction of service, quality, and attentiveness to the host brand. Thorough understanding of the principles of virus and symbiosis from a study and knowledge of biology provides the basis upon which new paradigms are designed, new organizational cultures and hierarchies established, and the power of relationships are harnessed for the betterment of all, not just a few.
Shen, H. H. (2009). The challenge of discovering beneficial viruses. Journal of Medical Microbiology, 58(4), doi: 10.1099/jmm.0.002246-0