When assessing an organization, two skills which seem to be ignored are ignoring input from interviewees and overweighting input from interviewees.
1) Ignoring Input
One example will suffice.
I worked with a collective community in the north of Israel as it migrated from a 100% purist form of collectivism to a model whereby “members” of the community could accrue personal wealth.
In my initial analysis, I spoke with 50 interviewees. 48 of the 50 interviewees told me that the economic situation of the community is “better than good” and registered severe resentment to the planned change. Only two interviewees stressed the dire straights of the community, and the need for change. One was the treasurer, who dealt with the banks daily; the other was the CEO of the industrial plan which belonged to the community, who could no longer get funding or pay his suppliers. The other interviewees were living in ” lala” land.
As the project moved forward and the community evolved in what was considered a huge success, an important counter-intuitive skill that I learnt was the ability to filter frequent yet useless input which would have preserved the status quo and destroyed the community.
Sometimes in the course of working with an organization, you encounter people who just “get it” and can provide very important information in very limited time, information which must be over weighted when putting together the organizational assessment.
Example one: I worked with a development center in England for 5 years. The organizational climate was appalling. People were overworked, the technology was out-dated and pay was mediocre. Yet turnover was almost 0 in a hot job market. My mission was to make it a better place to work but management was telling me “what’s wrong Shevat, turnover is 0. One day, I interviewed a Thai engineer with poor English. She told me that “this is the only place we immigrants have encountered where you leave your accent and language skills at the door and you are judged by other criteria. The organization is a horrendous place to work but overcompensates by being totally not bigoted.” I remember how shocked I was after we have talked….I had been there 2 years and has not picked it up. Once I got that, I managed to leverage that insight to push for change.
Example two: I do a lot of work in highly technical organizations, and I have learnt that some people are indeed so talented that you need to give them the stage over others and listen to what they say however unbalanced they may be. They have it right. I remember working with an engineer who was always yelling and screaming at others….and he told me that what folks were doing in two years can be done in a week by a different method-and he was spot on.
Overweighting and underweighting input may be difference between preparing an opinion poll or writing a professional organizational diagnosis.