Does the individual make the organization or does the organization make the individual?
Does the individual make the culture or does the culture make the individual?
Does the culture affect behavior or does the behavior affect culture?
Does the organization make the system or does the system make the organization?
These are organizational chicken-and-egg questions. Each is only partially true. But, together, they fully explain the truth.
It is the individual that builds the organization. But, it is also the organization that makes the individual who he is. Think about Apple and Steve Jobs. Steve Jobs made Apple, but Steve Jobs and his legacy will always be defined by Apple.
It is the individual that creates the culture, but it is also the culture that creates the individual. Again, the Apple Way of innovating and having great attention to detail was because of Steve Jobs. Now, even after Steve is long gone, the Apple Way lives on in its employees. It created the individuals.
The culture affects how the individuals behave. Yet, from the outside looking in, the company's culture is defined by how its employees behave towards those outside the organization.
Finally, systems are put in place by the people of the organization. Yet, the organization itself is dependent on the effectiveness of those systems. The systems are defined by the organization, yet the organization (especially its success) is defined by its own systems.
Credit where credit is due. I was inspired to write this post by Frederick Laloux's book, Reinventing Organizations. It's a great read for individuals looking to make a difference in their companies or those looking to start their own organizations. It is a book about how both the organization and the individuals making up the organization are evolving in this information age. The system we know of is becoming more and more ineffective, even obsolete.
The key is finding a balance between the organization and the individual making up the organization, adhering to the culture and maintaining individuality, and finding meaning and getting things done.
How can you apply this in your organization?