What to do when you do not understand what is going on in an organization?-Part 2

As I mentioned in my previous post, OD consultants at times observe organizational behaviours which appear irrational. As a matter of fact, at times organizations can appear to be a theatre of the absurd, and you can’t get the plot or get a handle around the absurdity.

Things are rarely absurd. There is a plot to decipher. What is the plot? Often asking people may not get you to the plot, unless you have domain expertise or have good informal relationships.

I had put together an initial short check list of things I look for to make sense of some of the absurdities. The reaction was so positive that  I have put together another short check list of things that make help make sense. The first list is here.

4) The pain/chaos being observed do not impact business results.

5) Pleasing the street (Wall Street) has taken precedence to running the business operationally.

6) What you observe is linked to issues of career management of a senior manager.

Three examples may illustrate the above.

  • The 2014 budget process appeared to everyone to be the theatre of the  absurd. Sales people were handed quotas which made no sense, revenue projections were hallucinatory and massive pressure was brought on senior managers and middle managers to cough up plans “how to make it happen”. Everyone cooperated and the budget was passed. In February, the CFO “left to spend time with his family and got a huge bonus”, rewarded for his complacency in the budget process. Investor confidence was peaked in Q4 and Q1 as stock prices rose.
  • The level of churn/turnover of skilled technicians was very high and no effort was made to retain skilled technicians . The company spent 3 months training technicians who quit after a year. Complaints about the low skill level of technicians were very common yet the company did nothing. The reason was that the company was selling in a cut throat cost environment and could not afford to pay skilled technicians. Management had done a discrete analysis which proved that the turn over (churn) paid off.
  • Very aggressive commitments are given to engineers, who accept them knowing there are going to fail. The engineers then slip on deadlines one week before delivery, creating a huge customer crisis. However, the customer had requested impossible deadlines, so these slips are the only way to win the business and then de-commits from the time line. The customer has no choice but to “swallow the frog” because of prestige issues, as well as money and time already invested.
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