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Eight Habits of Very Ineffective Organizations (and How to Correct Them)

2011 January 31
tags: Getting Things Done, GTD, postaweek2011, Productivity, Wargaming
by Andrew   

effective delegationOrganizations are either effective or ineffective, productive or unproductive, advancing or declining. They are never stable, except for the very brief, unmeasureable moment between positive movement and negative. Here are eight reasons why ineffective organizations are ineffective, and simple ways to make them – and you – more effective.

1. Be reactive.  Why anticipate needs or obstacles and address them before they force a response? Why take the bull by the horns? It’s much easier to keep your collective heads down, toe some line, and let life come at you. Or is it? Reaction takes increasing energy as opposing momentum builds. If such opposition or resistance is building, someone is being proactive against your goals. If you aren’t conducting business planning, strategic planning, and possibly wargaming, read on. You might want to start.

2. Begin without a plan.  Strategic plan…business plan…plan for the day…lunch plans. Whatever. The surest path to being surprised about where you end up is not to have one. There are myriad resources for strategic and business planning, and data consistently shows effective organizations plan and then execute to those plans, revising them as necessary…not on a mystical five-year cycle, but continually on a market-relevant or niche-relevant period.

3. Start wherever is convenient.  Don’t have goals? Everyone on your leadership team has goals but they all go off in myriad directions? No time for real organizational driver analysis followed by planning? There’s an approach tailor made for you: Crisis-Response-Assess-Plan. The acronym that forms readily describes the results you will achieve. Yet, that is precisely the solution order many organizations take because they incorrectly presume they’re too busy with business to properly address solutions. Wargaming will help such folks immensely. The very nice people at Fuld are masters at it.

4. Think short-term.  Leadership team close to retirement? Or the Next Big Challenge Elsewhere? Executives in charge today unworried about – or unburdened by – the downstream consequences of their decisions? Ineffective, often egregiously ineffective, organizations make decisions, commit resources, and establish goals with no thought given to the long-term impacts, resource requirements, or sustainability of their actions. Plan, act, and execute like tomorrow depends on today’s success. Would your family be proud of our decisions?

5. Amble about in the dark.  As I’m rather fond of saying, what gets evaluated gets attention. Even the best organizations suffer from occasional blindness about themselves, but at least they employ the services of internal auditors, third-party quality assurance, or independent evaluators. Without insightful evaluation of operations, processes, and performance against organizational goals, individual elements begin to perform to their own goals and processes and, at some point, begin to withhold information from the organization’s head until the lower levels have time to try to fix things and properly inform all of the intervening layers. It’s usually too late for an expedient, effective, lower-cost solution by then. If, on the other hand, you want to execute your strategy with achievable, measurable results, consider enlisting the aid of the inventors of the Balanced Scorecard. Find them here. Find outstanding strategy and organizational performance advice from Ed Barrows and Mario Bognanno.

6. De-energize.  Overwork the staff. Hammer them. Reduce their resources continually. Denigrate their performance, question their motivation, and refuse to hold their topmost leaders responsible for real, measurable results important to the stakeholders. This business practice is de rigueur for the nation’s largest employer. If people are your most important asset (Hint: they are), stop treating them like they work in the arena in ancient Rome!

7. Sharpen the ax.  Start threatening to lean the ranks. Make noises about how the worst performers will have to go, or worse, how people might have to be released regardless of performance. But make sure you don’t communicate with them as a part of your organizational family. They might just find ways to surprise you with innovation, productivity, and even miracles if given an opportunity to help solve problems.

8. Glory in past success.  We’re the best. No on else can build this stuff! We’re consistently praised as premier whatevers at our business. Our invested capital is too great for anyone to match. Really?! As my beloved grandmother used to say, hide and watch. There is nothing wrong with celebrating past success. It’s a great motivator and team-builder. But don’t let it be the linchpin of your strategy.

Will avoiding these bad habits guarantee success? No. But practicing them will incur the law of diminishing returns until your organization fails.

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