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« The semiotics of type | Main | The care and feeding (and shunning) of vampires »

Soft tissue

Most organizations are built around three anatomical concepts: Bone, muscle and soft tissue.

The bones are the conceptual skeleton, the people who stand for something, who have been around, have a mission and don't bend easily, even if there's an apparently justifiable no-one-is-watching shortcut at hand. "We don't do things that way around here."

The muscles are able to do the heavy lifting. They are the top salespeople, the designers with useful and significant output, the performers who can be counted on to do more than their share.

And the soft tissue brings bulk, it protects the muscles and the bones. The soft tissue can fill a room, handle details, add heft in many ways. It can bring protection and cohesion, and sometimes turn into muscle.

When a bone breaks, we notice it. When those that make up the organization's skeleton leave, or lose their nerve or their verve, the entire organizations gasps, and often rushes to fix the problem.

Muscles are easily measured, and we've built countless organizational tools to find and reward our best producers.

But soft tissue... soft tissue is easy to add to the team, but time-consuming to remove. Soft tissue bogs down the rest of the organization, what with all those meetings, the slowdown of time to market, the difficulty in turning on a dime.

An organization that lets itself be overwhelmed by the small but insistent demands of too much soft tissue gets happy, then it gets fat, then it dies.

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