The How of Organisational Health
Empowerment, accountability, motivation, focus, collaboration, engagement, commitment, team effectiveness, results orientation, passion, drive, entrepreneurship, trust…..
These are just some of the qualities we want to inspire, build or strengthen in our employees. They may seem like overused buzzwords, but they are nevertheless buzzwords we cannot do without. Imagine an employee who is the opposite: unmotivated, uncommitted, confused, disengaged, irresponsible and difficult to work with. Actually, we don’t even have to imagine such an employee. We see them in real life. And it does not work.
In other blogs, I have used the term Organisational Health to describe the situation where all of these qualities are present. In “This is Why your Company is not Winning” I make the case that all the intelligence, experience and effort of our managers has to go through the bottle-neck of organisational health before it is applied to our business. If the organisational health is weak, the bottle-neck is narrow and our products and services will not live up to the quality of our people. McKinsey confirmed this in a study of 600 000 employees and 500 companies which showed that 50% of a company’s success is due to organisational health. As much as all the traditional functions such as finance, marketing, sales, R&D and production combined.
In “Good to Great: The Difference is Organisational Health” I look at the work that I think we all want to focus on every day: to turn our good company into a great one. Based on Jim Collins’ learnings, the work we should be doing every day is improving our Organisational Health. But not via the standard HR processes and systems such as evaluations, development plans, succession planning, talent pipeline, leadership courses and programs, etc. Collins shows that the companies that moved from good to great do not have better HR processes than companies which remained good.
Three of my other blogs start drilling down into the real drivers of competitive advantage and superior business results through organisational health:
- “Intolerance: The Ultimate Leadership Value”
- “Turning Disagreements into a Competitive Advantage”
- “Want Results: Fix Accountability!”
It is in the areas above that we can find the how of organisational health that we do not find in the standard HR processes.
Instead of abstract buzzwords like motivation and empowerment, we need to turn our attention to the concrete interaction with our employees and colleagues every day. Words like discipline and intolerance will better describe what we are trying to do.
Our daily interaction is where all of our lofty goals like accountability and focus come into play – or not. Efforts to change culture, manage organisational change and engaging employees is more like stopping to smoke than like HR processes. You cannot stop smoking based on a long-term program. Or by reviewing once a month how you did. Or by communicating, publishing strategy documents or writing blogs. Sooner or later, it has to come down to a specific moment in a specific situation where you have a choice between lighting a cigarette – or not. Here and now. And your success is the sum of your decisions. But that is just math. The change happens only in the moment.
In organisational terms, these moments are face-to-face conversations with individuals and meetings with groups. That’s it. In each of these situations, every manager has a choice. Will he insist that the conversation focuses on the agreed company priorities? Will she listen to the disagreements voiced by the other person? Will he admit his mistake and go with the plan that the others suggested? Will she share her real concerns and insist on working through all the difficult issues until there is the kind of alignment that everybody can commit personally to? Will she give feedback here and now when a colleague or employee does not live up to the company values? Will he tell his colleague that the fact that he had not done his part of the work is blocking the rest of the team? Will she tell her CEO that her behaviour is dysfunctional? Will he take the opportunity to explain why the leadership team chose this strategy? Will she sense hesitation in the room and ask to see the 800 pound gorilla? Will he face reality when there is bad news?
The sum of these decisions dermines organisational health, which in turn determines whether the skills of the managers are fully utilized, which in turn determines whether your company has a competitive advantage. It is like stopping to smoke. Except for one thing. To stop smoking, there is only one decision, which has to be made again and again. In a business, there are many different decisions: Focusing on the right priorities, living up to the values of the company, dealing with disagreement and conflict, providing feedback, etc. This makes it difficult. Very difficult. And that is why only the very best will win.