Relationships are hard enough among people. Remaining interested and interesting for each other requires self-consciousness, reflection and evolution. The benefits are obvious: you have a partner that supports, deeply knows and cares about you and that can be there for, gaining a sense of meaning and purpose through that.
Relationships between service-providers and clients are different, of course. But not completely different.
How do you remain interesting for a client? How can you evolve together and be companions for each other’s development? How can you move from being a faceless service-provider to a partner.
The truth is - I don’t really know.
What I do know is that this is a crucial question. Whether you are independent and roast and sell coffee, provide training, have a design studio or consult in business strategy or you work within a larger organisation and provide internal services like product design, accounting, research or leadership (yes, leadership is a service, of course it is). If you don’t continuously provide a meaningful contribution to your client’s work and life you might ‘split up’ sooner or later.
In Mechanistic Organisations, we don’t have (or need) this service mentality. Members of different functions don’t deliver services out of an intrinsic desire to meaningfully add value to someone else’s work. They do it because it’s their job description to do so. Management and leadership is most certainly not seen as a service.
Organic Organisations, on the other hand breathe service. Due to their contextuality and lived inter-dependence it is impossible to not think of your work outside of it’s meaningfulness to others. Many examples that we studied showed team-members being crucially involved in hiring managers and their peers (as their job is to make their work easier and better). Staff functions such as HR, planning or purchasing have to justify towards their peers that they add value to those involved in the output of the company. This leads, by the way, to most of these organisations employing hardly any middle-managers and very few staff functions.
So the question of how to continuously play a meaningful role for someone else remains. Is it even a reasonable ambition?
Think of individuals or companies that have been a part of your professional life for a long time. Why do you continue to have a relationship with them? What are commodity products (coffee, toilet paper, tea, etc.) that you buy from a certain provider even though the competition might be just fine as well? What’s that special differentiating factor that let’s you choose one over the other?
Not rhetorical questions, by the way. I’m really interested, so please leave me some comments. Thanks!