HomeVolume 1Issue 1 The Secret of Success of Any System

It took me fifty years of trial and error to realise that my mother, who did not have even an elementary education, was absolutely right. More about that later. But it starts with a question. What is the secret of success of any system? There is a formula:

External integration is the way in which the organisation, any system, is integrated with its environment. No system, person, family, business or country exists in a vacuum. We measure external integration in business by market share, profit margins, repeat sales, EVA, ROI, earnings per share, etc. When we refer to individuals, we calculate external integration by their career success as reflected in status, earnings, or rate of ascending in the hierarchy of the organisation. For a nation the determining factors are balance of payments, average income per citizen, trade conditions and economic growth. Same concept, different forms of measurement. Internal disintegration is all the internal fighting that occurs in organisations: the rumours, misunderstandings, back stabbings, frustrations with the job and turnover of people, among other manifestations of disintegration. In our personal life, internal disintegration is a function of all the confusion in our head: the self-doubt, self-disrespect and mistrust coupled with some of our most destructive behaviour. In a nation the disintegration is marked by a society where discrimination frequently occurs and where confrontations are the norm, whether in terms of gender, creed, religion, nationality or colour.

The question is: why does this formula predict success? We know from physics that energy is fixed. I discovered that the fixed energy is allocated in a predictable way in every system. It moves first to deal with internal disintegration and only then does the surplus overflow to external integration. For example, if you are ill and falling apart you will have little energy available to discuss, plan or organise how to handle the changing market. In a company riddled with internal disintegration, most of the energy is dedicated towards protecting one’s back, preserving one’s political and managerial power, along with a place in the system. For instance, a manager decides to sit in committee meetings he does not want to attend in order to protect his interests. So what is wanted is less internal disintegration. When that occurs there is more energy available for external integration and much greater opportunity for success of the system. But what does internal disintegration mean? Let us understand it through its opposite. How do you minimise internal disintegration? By integration.

And what is integration?  What is an integrated organisation? A healthy system.

Integration is synonymous with health and disintegration with sickness. What do we say about a mentally healthy individual? He is all together. What do we say about a physically or even mentally sick person? He or she is falling apart. Same for a sick family or a sick country. Falling apart. Disintegrating.

So, now, what is the secret of success? Not external integration. That is the result of having success. That is the output. We need to understand what makes success? Which is to recognise the value of the input.

Success is internal integration i.e. being healthy. Don’t we say in all languages, “Be well”, when we wish something for the other person as we part company? Don’t we raise a glass and wish each other “Na zdravlje”, “Salud”, “To your health”: the same expression in different languages.

What is the value of having a lot of possessions, or whatever success we might measure ourselves by, if we are sick? Have you ever been very sick? You were probably most willing to surrender all your possessions just to become healthy again.The real secret of success resides in how healthy you are.  You personally, your family, your business, your country.

Focus on the health of your organisation and how integrated it is, how aligned the subsystems are. Profits are a measurement of how well you have perfected aligning the inputs. It is the scoring board of the tennis match. It tells you how well you played. Focusing on the scoring board and ignoring the balls will not help you win the game.  The point rather is to focus on the game, which in turn reflects positively on the scoring board.

So, what is the role of management? Of leadership? Of a parent? Of a national leader? To make and keep the system they are managing, or leading, or parenting, healthy.

My mother, whenever I would tell her about some incredible success I had with a client or with my book, would sigh and say, “Ha ikar ha bruit (What is most important is your health),” as if to say, it is nice all you are telling me about your success, but watch it son. What is really most important is your health.

Thank you mom. Just thinking.

Dr. Ichak Kalderon Adizes
Adizes Institute

Reprinted with permission

Artwork by ALI GHAEMI


Dr. Ichak Adizes

Dr. Ichak Adizes

Dr. Ichak Adizes is widely acknowledged as one of the world’s leading management experts. He has received 21 honorary doctorates and is the author of 27 books that have been translated into 36 languages. Dr. Adizes is recognized by Leade... Read More