Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Key Markers Relating to Organizational Health

Just as an explorer needs markers to find their way, so do organizations.  If you have studied the Lewis and Clark expedition you will know that Clark was able to chart their course extremely accurately considering the instruments he had to work with.  I want to share some markers with respect to organizations and how you can “translate” them into a better understanding of what they indicate about the organization.
We can’t hire you because you are overqualified—this statement has become ubiquitous in many organizations and industry groups.  So what does this really mean?  Possibilities include;
·       We know that we are a “status quo” organization and you would become quickly bored or frustrated by the lack of organizational and personal growth potential. 
·       People want to be part of a winning team and this team is not one. 
·       An organization that espouses this “you are overqualified” statement is in a slow (or fast) decline in performance and competitiveness. 
·       If you are a high powered applicant, be thankful when they tell you that you are overqualified.  That allows you to conclude that their leadership is weak and you wouldn’t want to work there anyway.
If only we could eliminate the unfair competition  or lack of support from . . . –this tells you that they are more interested in confessing that their poor performance is someone else’s fault than in facing the reality of their own performance problems.  You can only use that argument with a straight face after you are sure you have perfected your own performance to its fullest and have no room to improve without removing the impediment you want to complain about.
We’ve been in business for decades and see no need to change our process now—this is a sure indication that this organization is doomed.  There is only one constant in the world and that is change.  You either face it taking it as an opportunity or you are victimized by it.
We are the best so now we can relax—oops!   This reminds me of a story about Mack Trucks back in the first half of the twentieth century.  They had designed a product line that was the current state of the art and considerably ahead of that of any competitor.  They were so confident that they shut down their design function because they thought no one would ever be able to do better than they had done.  They were wrong and squandered their lead causing much pain as they tried to restart development, something they should have kept all along.
We have a nice work environment because we do not allow arguments or disagreements—oh, my goodness, this is political correctness run amok.  Bossidy and Charan in their best selling management book Execution, the discipline of getting things done discuss the need for “robust dialog” if you aspire to creating a “performance” organization.  What they are saying is that you must allow and encourage people to disagree vigorously so that the “truth” needed for good decisions, is exposed.  Organizations that suppress the truth through political correctness and its brother Group Think are doomed to poor performance because their “be nice” ethic suppresses the lifeblood (truth) they need to succeed.

As a successful manager of high performing teams I can say that the first one; we can’t hire you because you are overqualified is the most ridiculous to me.   When I had an opening I looked for the best qualified person I could find, even someone who could compete with me and perhaps beat me out.  You need strong people to perform well and hiring the best gives you the opportunity to grow the organization quickly to the point where even the “overqualified” need to grow with it.  A good definition of the duty of a leader is, “A leader is responsible to provide a work climate in which everyone has a chance to grow and mature as individuals, as members of a group by satisfying their own needs, while working for the success of the organization.”

Too, the truth suppression of political correctness and Group Think guarantee an organization will not be able to perform well.  Kill them both; RIP.  Is the goal to be nice or to perform the mission at an excellent level?  You can’t have both all of the time.  You can be nice much of the time but there are times when you can’t if you want to perform.  I remember stories of Jimmy David the defensive back for the Detroit Lions championship teams of the 1950s.  His teammates told of hating him in practice because he was so hardnosed in his tackling. But they also said they loved him in the games when he made great plays regularly.  If you don’t practice with passion you can’t perform with passion.

Keep these markers in mind when assessing an organization to work for, invest in or buy a product or service from.

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