At a recent dinner with a group of leaders the topic of conversation drifted onto why organisations develop a tendency to condone poor leadership behaviours. It seemed that everybody in the group could recite an example from their personal experience of how the organisations in which they worked, not only justified the lack of appropriate behaviour but in many instances rewarded the behaviour through inappropriate reward systems.
The general consensus was that, over time, organisations seem to have a natural tendency to decay that is very often masked from the leadership as the organisation drives operational improvement. It’s as if the organisation develops a blind spot to its loss of strategic direction and agility.
“One organisation that I worked in developed a sophisticated methodology to ensure that all stakeholders were included in the decision making process.” regaled one of the executives. “Everybody’s viewpoint was researched, evaluated, considered and weighed against the others to demonstrate adherence to the organisational values of consensus and inclusivity. It was institutionalised procrastination of the first order. We had completely lost our way – everybody knew it but nobody seemed empowered to do anything about it”
There was much sympathetic nodding from the rest of the group.
“It’s almost as if it has become acceptable to do the wrong thing as long as we can demonstrate that we are doing it well.” continued the executive. The ensuing nervous laughter was evidence that this comment had touched a nerve with the group.
As the conversation developed it became increasingly evident that many of the executives felt the issue was that the goals of their organisations were becoming distorted. The complexity of the organisation structure coupled with increasingly sophisticated processes had led to a blurring of the organisation’s deliverables. The focus had moved from the strategic imperative to process efficiency resulting in a loss of overall direction.
“Seems to me that your organisations have become inward facing” retorted one of the group. “Surely the first question to be asked is why you are doing something; does it match the customer requirement. If yes then make sure you do it to the best of your ability. If no, ….well I think you might know the answer to that already.”