Poodles tend to have weak rear legs.
Older people get cataracts, shingles and what not. Kids get measles, mumps and chicken pocks.
Boxers often get dementia. Tennis players get bad elbows.
People who sit next to a computer all day get various aches and pains.
All of the above “come with the territory”, and are almost unavoidable.
Similarly, different types of organizations have different pathologies. The pathologies are not avoidable because they come with the territory of being what they are.
In this post, I shall provide a short taxonomy of pathologies I have encountered in my long career in 4 types of organizations, and suggest how to best deal with them.
- Bureaucracies eventually ossify to the point that that they work against doing their own job. Ministries of Housing slow down building of new houses; Welfare Ministries keep people poor. Ministries of Defense go to war. Income Tax creates a black market. My approach to working with bureaucracies has always been to work with empowered project teams from different functions to create a counter force to the functional structure and logic of bureaucracies.
- Start Ups create new technology, but they do not change human nature. Start-up founders are often extremely arrogant, know-it-all, and believe that they are so special that their shit smells like a rose. They have little trust in consultants, until things get really bad. My approach with start-ups has generally been to try and create around the founder more common sense. The founder is often not part of the solution, but the problem itself which needs to be counterbalanced.
- Organizations which are growing quickly often believe that they are doing everything right, and that is why they are growing quickly. This is very often total nonsense. They are growing because in the past, smart decisions were made. In the present, they are creating the reasons why they will stop growing. My approach to working with organizations which are growing quickly is to work on mitigating the damage to the “critical core” (people, ideas, behaviours) that made the company great; it is these very people who lose their power and influence when the company grows quickly.
- Organizations of about 20-30 people have a problem of infrastructure. They are no longer a small company, but they cannot afford to create “staff” roles. As such, everything slows down and it becomes very hard to do simple things. My approach has always been to focus on hiring an over qualified individual who have vast experience in companies of this size. Hires from start-ups or very small companies have a hard trouble adapting to companies of this size.
One final comment. OD consultants must have domain experience. If you have done OD in family businesses, it does not “count” as relevant experience for any other type of organization.