Monday, August 8, 2011

Today’s Problems and Tomorrow's Challenges

As we enter the last of the summer days, everyone is talking about problems. Technical, adaptive or critical - problems are happening all over the place. And the result of all of these problems is two fold. First, some people are freaking out and running around like Chicken Little saying “the sky is falling.” Others are standing stock still like deer in the headlights wondering what is going to happen next. Neither is a very productive choice.

When problems surface, I recall something I learned from Peter Senge’s writing long ago, namely that today's problems are the result of yesterday's solutions. This is not a popular line of thinking in some organizations because it implies we did not always make the right decisions. However, it does remind us that the choices we make today do have long term implications on many different levels.

One problem that is surfacing at this time period is organizational fragmentation due to past choices and today’s problems. Here the different parts of the corporation act independent of the greater whole. Furthermore, multiple reactions and decisions that solve current problems do not always create capacity as much as organizational silos, resulting in a diminished ability to prepare or even execute on emerging opportunities to grow in the future.

The second problem that is surfacing at this time period relates to structural misalignments. The proverbial “org chart” or “T.O.”, i.e. the table of organization that explains who reports to who, is not working effectively. Remember the Gallup research that states people join companies but quit who they report to. We, as leaders, sometimes forget that structure really does influence individual and group behavior. We also do not like to think about how smart people when reporting to the wrong person and not working with effective systems tend to produce poor work even if they are trying their best. Jim Collin’s research in his book, Good To Great, was right when he stated “who, before what.”

For us gathered here today, we need to do the following things during the next sixty days. First, we need to build stronger teams who can work well together and think realistically and creatively when problems surface. Second, we need to develop the capacity in our organizations so more people can step into leadership positions before major problems or opportunities surface. Third, we need to realign our organization so that the right people in combination with the right core values can improve service delivery. Finally, we need to remember that which got us to where we are today may not get us to where we need to go. Past success can blind us to the significant choices we need to make.

Geery Howe, M.A.Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer inLeadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational ChangeMorning Star Associates319 - 643 - 2257

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