“Are other companies as screwed up as us” is one of the questions we usually hear once a client is comfortable with us. Our answer is usually, “Yes and no”
The reality is that, yes, all companies are dysfunctional. In fact, most times when you have more than one human being in any relationship there is some degree of dysfunction. Communication nuances and differences in individuals alone always create dissonance. The key is to minimize the static and work toward common goals
As we say, “there’s always a menagerie, the key is how to get the most productivity out of the menagerie”.
The more important question is, “How can we not have our inherent dysfunction inhibit our goals/growth?” The answer first is “do you have the ability and power to change things?” because often organizations don’t want to be fixed. Many times there are people with vested interest in
We have seen organizations that actually go bankrupt from dysfunction from
improprieties on the part of presidents to un-sustainable business practices
to product development cycles that never had a chance to be successful
(and sucked up millions of dollars in resources for years), etc., etc.
The Big Decision
If you are in one of these chronically dysfunctional organizations, best thing to do is clean up the old resume and methodically look for a new job or decide if you can live with this kind of dysfunction (can you say “self-medication”?) knowing that realizing any personal or professional potential is probably not going to happen.
Unfortunately, there are a lot of people in that second category and whether they are bronze, silver or gold, they’re still handcuffs. “Gallup research shows that only 13% of employees around the world are actively engaged at work, and more than twice that number are so disengaged they are likely to spread negativity to others.” ¹. It’s not a pretty life, but mortgages need to be paid, braces bought and tuitions paid.
Change Agent Tactics
If you are in a position of power, and there is enough internal impetus to do something, here are a few hints of how to change organizations for the better.
•Find and align the “insurgents” – In any company there are always those who like to achieve, who like to grow things and who want to do the right thing for the company and for themselves. They’re also often the ones who know how things get done within an organization so they have great value. A small team of these folks can make big things happen.
If a large organization, it also helps if you can find a champion who can run interference for you at high levels and cover your back as you run forward. They’re there, they are as frustrated as you and you’d be surprised at how much you can get done with an ally like this.
•What Matters? – This is dangerous work, so you don’t want to waste time on the tight rope for something that isn’t going to make a significant change within the organization and/or really needs changing. Doesn’t mean that you can’t have small wins along the way as part of your strategy, but they need to add up to significance to be of value to the insurgents and yourself. •“Flag & Flog” Metrics – What metrics expose how dysfunctional the organization is in an area? For example, if your competition has product development cycles of 9 months and your company’s is 18, bring it up and wave/flog that flag whenever you can.
First, it then is not about a person, but about a business metric. Second, once that postulate is exposed, it sits in everyone’s craw, whether they admit it or not, and helps to set a beach head for change.
It also limits the dysfunction. When you bring up competitive or “best of breed” standards, it will either be a catalyst for change, or it will show a fatal, lack of caring, dysfunction in the company that brings you back to "The Big Decision".
•Measured and communicated progress steps - Break the initiative into steps, milestones and a time line. Not so much as a management tool, but as a way to show that this change is real and not a “strategy du jour” that can be waited out.
Especially point out progress in tangible steps (“we said we’d do these three things last month and we only got two done. This month we are going to finish the third and add these three new tasks). Besides showing progress, it also begins the first step in changing standard (dysfunctional) operating procedures for the better.
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