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Do we still know what an enterprise is ?

I can’t remember the definition of an enterprise I was taught when I was at school… too complicated and abstract. I One thing is sure : the focus was always on the structural side, the economic and legal entity. This entity-oriented vision lead people to build wall around the enterprise, in order to protect it, and even walls within, with the success we all kwow…

But things are changing, step by step : the notion of extended enterprise is making things more subtile. And what to say about the new born social company that involves both clients, suppliers and the general public in its evolutions, its choices ? And what to say about Shirky’s organization without organization ?

In my own vision I always saw the enterprise as the coordination of material and human means in order to reach a goal. It’s closer to the generic definition given by wikipedia, considering the enterprise we often talk about is only the economic side of this vision.

In the general sense, the word enterprsie is used for unique projects with a risky or difficult appearance (a long trip, scientific researches…) because an effort is needed/

Etymologically the word comes from the verb “to undertake”, that appeared around 1430-1440 and meaned “take with one’ s hands”. Around 1480 its sense moved to “take a risk, take up a challenge,

Perhaps you may think it’s a strange defintion, that cannot be found in wikipedia. And you’d be right : it’s the french definition, that does not match, for what I saw, with the englisg one. So it was about “entreprise” and the verb “entreprendre”.

I really prefer this objective oriented definition because it helps to take off the blinkers that prevent from enterprise’s socialization. And it reminds us that the objective is the project and that the structure called “enterprise” is only here to serve this goal, that it’s a mean and not a goal by itself. That’s because they often forget it that many directors or managers are driving their companies to scleroris, focusing on preserving what exists instead on improvements that would help reaching the assigned goals.

By the way, this note was inspired by this note from  Gordon Taylor who was, in fact, pointing that the human side of enterprise was often neglected. I was about to answer him what I wrote above when I realzed that, in english (or american…) I was not sure there was another meaning than the economic one. So, of course, if enterprises are only seen as economic entities and not as projects, there are many chances their human component would be forgotten.J’allais lui répondre peu ou prou ce que je viens d’écrire dans ce billet avant de me rendre compte qu’à ma connaissance, en anglais, il me semble que les mots “entreprendre” et “entreprise” n’existent que dans leur acception économique et pas avec le sens plus global que j’évoquais plus haut. Alors c’est sur, si l’entreprise ne peut être vue que sous l’angle de l’entité et non sous celui de projet on risque fort de souvent oublier qu’il y a également des gens derrière.

Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler
Head of Employee and Client Experience @Emakina / Former consulting director / Crossroads of people, business and technology / Speaker / Compulsive traveler

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