Enhancing a sense of personal ownership in an organization with very aggressive goals

I am not a magician. Far from it. Albeit my “in your face” style, I tend to be very realistic in my approach to managing and mitigating organizational pain,foremost by creating appropriate expectations. My interactions with Ed will demonstrate how this is done.

Ed called me a month ago;  we had 6  conversations. In our first meeting, Ed described the reason he had approached me “Allon, I want your help to install a sense of personal responsibility in order to grow our company by 7% per quarter for the next year”.

Ed’s  company is in a high growth area, so his growth goals were not all that bizarre. What was totally misguided was his desire to enhance the sense of  “personal ownership”.

Personal ownership is counter-indicated to achieving aggressive growth. I told him as such and explained.

“Ed, when aggressive growth goals are set, the major concern of staff at all levels is “what do these goals  mean for me”?  For example the developers do not  want to release sloppy code; account managers do not want to deal with angry clients who feel that they have been duped. Customer service wants scripts to  solve client problems and product marketing wants to maintain a stable product road map.

Aggressive growth is achieved by trading off the maximalistic goals and wet dreams of each function/profession to create a runway that enables a fast take off for growth. It’s all about trade offs, compromise, sharing of risks, not ownership of a subset of goals.”

I explained to Ed how a enhanced sense of personal ownership in the context of aggressive growth  will drive managers to set very high standards for their respective functions,  and subsequently to refuse to negotiate pragmatic trade offs/compromise. And worst of all, a culture of blaming and finger pointing will thrive.

As a result of our conversations, Ed went offsite with his team with me to discuss “how do we share risks?”

By setting appropriate expectations up  front, the intervention was shorter (less commercially viable) and very effective..But I built a reputation with Ed, and that will pay off over the coming years, if I am still around.

 

 

 

 

 

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Organization Developments’ dangerous fundamentalism

Fundamentalism is the strict unwavering, inflexible adherence to principle, most often  but not solely religious.

We all know what religious fundamentalism looks like as well as the damages/mass stupidity it can inflict both on its own believers and its enemies. The user experience at airports since 9/11 is a testament to this.

Not only religions have fundamental principles- so do professions, including organization development.

The fundamental OD principles were based on where, when and by whom OD was founded, and served as the platform for the profession and its subsequent development.  While the world of organizations has changed, the principles have not, rendering OD’s fundamentals as outdated as a man waving a sword chopping  off peoples’ heads off because he  wants to recreate his 6th century grandeur.

Let’s take a few examples.

Democracy:

OD was a response to the dangers of fascist regimes and many OD interventions encourage democratization. In 2019, it is democracy which is facing huge challenges. Not only is it clear that democratic processes can lead to extremely dangerous decisions, but over time the types of people who rise to the top can be very dangerous and corrupt.

The empowerment of the individual:

What a mess this has become! System problems (such as aggressive deadlines and enforced loneliness aka remote work) are ignored. Coaching the individual, wellness programs and engagement voodoo take the system problems out of the spotlight, wallpapering them with an irrelevant focus on the individual.

Authenticity

OD places a premium on authentic communication. However, in many cultures, authenticity is akin to farting in an elevator. Even in the west, authenticity does not pay off. Authentic people often get fucked, when they don’t get fired.

And I can go on and on. But I won’t. I will however end this post by a description of how an OD fundamentalist facilitates a merger. Ignoring Machiavelli and Darwin, the OD fundamentalist with try to take the best from each culture to form a new culture, based on the best of both worlds. This inevitably fails. However, an OD consultant who has moved beyond fundamentalist will assume that there are no mergers, just acquisitions, and let nature take its course, serving as a midwife for the inevitable survival of the fittest.

 

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