Does your organization have its own fingerprint? How to take advantage of it?

Many bodies and organizations in the world have used the fingerprint to differentiate between persons. In the eighteenth century, it was proved that the human fingerprints do not resemble. Therefore, it can be adopted as an effective tool for proof of identity, similarly for the other fingerprint s such as eye print, facial print and hair print. The common thing among all of them is that they allow creating a particular form or arrangement for each person.

Some management writers and authors also discussed the concept of organizational fingerprint. In a book recently published under the title “Managing Organizational Diversity“, the authors, Carolina Machado and Paulo Davim, have shown that each organization has a different way of ‎work performance, as well as different reactions towards the positions and variables that they face. This is known as an organizational fingerprint. This fingerprint varies from one organization to another. Therefore, it can be considered as a tool for distinguishing among organizations. As for Chris Bilton in his book “Creativity and Cultural Policy“, he added that the organizational fingerprint is a model containing a set of values, assumptions and beliefs and is formed with different compositions in each organization, allowing them to be distinguished from the others through creating their own fingerprint. It is remarkable here that some of these assumptions and values ​​are logical and others are illogical and there is no clear benefit to the organization in its existence. It may be appropriate to point out here that there is a weak trend considering the organizational fingerprint is linked to the marketing identity of the organization and its brand. However, this trend is limited and has not received adequate support or acceptance in ​​management field.

Several management practices have also been adopted on the concept of the organizational fingerprint but in other forms. For example, models of the global organizational excellence can be sighted such as Baldrige Model of organizational excellence in the United States, the Excellence Framework of the European Foundation for Quality Management, and the local excellence models developed which commensurate with the needs of governments such as the Fourth Generation Model of Government Excellence. We find that they all diagnose the status of the organization according to the approved criteria describing the best practices and comparing the organizations based on the results of this diagnosis.

Some bodies and organizations went on trying to show the organizational fingerprint  at the country level, depending on combined indexes and special reporting models such as the World Bank’s Ease of Doing Business report, aimed at measuring the status of doing business and consequently the protection of property rights in order to encourage business, and the Global Competitiveness Index of the World Economic Forum, which compares 138 economies trying to determine the productivity details of those economies.

If we compare these management practices and indexes with the concept of the organizational fingerprint  that has been introduced, we see that they move away from it in two main areas: First, the adoption of consistent criteria for measuring the success of the organization and diagnosing its condition does not always suit the changing needs of today’s organizations. What is a priority for an organization today may become a minor thing tomorrow, and so forth this equation remains in constant change. Second, the organizational fingerprint as it has been identified is a special and unique case for each organization. In this sense, the comparison of organizations based on common concepts is not the only available solution.

The fundamental question here is: How can organizations benefit from the concept of organizational fingerprint?

The beginning is to document the organization’s fingerprint.

Jill Morin, in her book, “Better Make it Real: Creating Authenticity in an Increasingly Fake World” said that organizations must first discover their own authentic fingerprints and care to make them as close as possible. This is not an easy task as it needs a clear framework, as well as specific processes, in addition to a strong commitment of the working group on implementation. In the same context, Hal Mclean, along with Frank Mellon, facilitated this task for the organizations by proposing a set of topics as they are from elements of organizational culture that affects the performance of the organization and constitutes the components of the organizational fingerprint that must always be strengthened. They range as leadership skills, problem-solving skills, the organizational development, and others. In any event, the leadership of the organization should adopt a special set of criteria that constitute its organizational fingerprint, based on its experience, taking into consideration the specificity of the work, and taking advantage of the largest number of available inputs.

The second step is to identify the desired levels for each component of the organizational fingerprint.

This is different from the traditional method of developing performance indicators as the high performance in each component is not necessary to be the best, for example, some organizations think that not giving priority to increasing the number of customers and maintaining the current customers is better for the organization because this is consistent with the attributes of its own organizational fingerprint. Some organizations also prefer to reduce the number of available e-services. In addition, the desired levels of the organizational fingerprint components are not necessary to achieve increasingly readings, whatever increasing, decreasing or stable. However, they may rise in a year and decrease in the following year, for example, and this depends on the emerging variables.

This is not all; there are other benefits that can be gained from the organizational fingerprint. The organizations are usually similar on paper when preparing plans, services identification and classification, or determining the activity type, shape and size, but the organizational fingerprint makes them different through the intangible elements, and through the deep analysis of the organization and its core capabilities. For example, the organizational fingerprint enables management to determine the appropriate solutions when using external consultancy firms and to avoid copying of ready-made solutions which some of these consultants often try to apply.

Finally, organizations benefit from the proper use of organizational fingerprint in achieving efficiency by distributing resources properly according to the actual needs of the organization, and thus, significantly reducing waste. The impact of developmental work is usually apparent and direct as well, since it appears in response to basic and realistic needs.

* I wrote and published this article in Harvard Business Review Arabic