Parts or Whole?

What do you call a single cell in a huge body, acting counter to the general flow of a body? A rebel cell. The theory of cancer is happening at the corpuses of businesses everywhere. When parts are running in different directions than the whole, there is a schism a hand.

We’ve used Marcus Aurelius’ line already in this book, but it’s worth noting again: What is good for the bee is good for the hive. The parts and the whole need to be in harmony, and every part (each initiative, every project, every action or inaction) should play an integral, strategic role. If parts are not working in concert, then efforts and resources are wasted.

How well do your parts sync up to a whole? Does every assignment, every project, every mission add value to the total vision?

Given the buzzword of “corporate waste” or the thousands of killed projects we have seen sitting in a warehouse that’s next to a warehouse that’s next to a warehouse filled with shelved projects, we think there is a lack of cohesive vision at many companies.

The reason is simple, a lack of vision and leadership. These firms are not applying systems thinking and considering how the parts add or subtract from the whole.

Often, to ignite new growth, we are called into a skunkworks for new product or new market innovation. What we discover, time and time again, is that there are so many parts running in different directions that no one knows what the whole is anymore. This lack of a holistic approach shows that short-sighted, knee-jerk relationships with growth do not work for more than a season and the long-term fallout confuses the whole enterprise.

The corpus is sick without a whole vision. If a company chooses parts as a default—without envisioning how each part adds value to the enterprise—it displays a lack of a coherent vision.

Before a project kicks off, ask how it is related to other projects. Ask if there is a clear path to value. Ask how this part plays into the whole. If you cannot answer, take it to your leaders and demand clarity.