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Managing a successful business (nonprofit or for-profit) -- or building up the health of an already established business -- requires healthy, ongoing leadership and management, planning, product and service development, marketing and financial management. To carry out these practices in a healthy manner, it's important to first understand the basic "territory" in which these practices are carried out.

These practices are all "systems" that occur within the larger system of the organization. This is not academic talk -- this is a highly practical point to understand. To truly understand and be effective at these practices, it helps greatly if leaders, managers and employees have some basic understanding of the overall "system" of the business, its common traits, dimensions, "personalities" and life cycles. Too often, this basic nature is not understood. Instead, people tend to focus only on the day-to-day events and when problems occur, they don't see the "larger picture" in order to resolve these problems effectively.

This importance of this understanding is evident when you recognize that many graduate business programs start out with an overview of the organizational system (often, these programs start out with course called, for example, "Organizational Theory").

Basically, an organization is a group of people intentionally organized to accomplish an overall, common goal or set of goals. Business organizations can range in size from two people to tens of thousands.

There are several important aspects to consider about the goal of the business organization. These features are explicit (deliberate and recognized) or implicit (operating unrecognized, "behind the scenes"). Ideally, these features are carefully considered and established, usually during the strategic planning process. (Later, we'll consider dimensions and concepts that are common to organizations.)