Strategy Hacks #4.....Organizational Myopia

This series reviews common leadership failings that result in ineffective or non-existent strategy. In each case I suggest a diagnosis and treatment plan that can be initiated by inside change agents or outside consultants. It is my experience that the second scenario, using well-chosen consultants, is the better option for most organizations. That route brings in new thinking, takes less time to implement and leaves the blame for system shock outside the leadership circle.

Organizational Myopia: This short-sightedness results in focusing the corporate strategy on a few narrow functional goals. These goals are mostly short-term, usually monetary and always easily measured. Examples would be: to add to the endowment fund/ reserves/ investments/ stock price/ membership or Facebook friends list. For-profit organizations are regularly accused of this focus narrowing but not-for-profits are not immune. Short-range goals are attractive because they are simple and easily understood. However, that exclusive focus makes the organization blind in all other areas. Insuring the appropriate focal length and breadth of goals is a responsibility of leadership at the board and senior management levels.

Compile the organizational goals as expressed by each member of the leadership team including board leaders. Collect this information in individual interviews. Be sure to hear how each individual frames and states the goals. Do not accept as a substitute the delivery of a written corporate document such as last year's annual report or board retreat minutes.

Ask, in particular, about the operational criteria for individual and corporate rewards (bonuses, promotions, honors and accolades).

Chart the resulting information by individual and by timeline for achievement noting any nesting or follow-on goals (first this which enables that). Analyze the chart for proportion of mid to long-term thinking and for evidence of connection between goal statements and organizational positioning within its competitive environment.


Organizations that are self-limiting in this way generally have two related deficits in their corporate culture. The first is a preference for dependability. This leads to a bias for predictability, which leads in turn to organizational stasis. We do this and we do it this way because we always have and we think that is just fine.

This attitude is almost always accompanied by mistrust and distaste for innovation which can be observed as intolerance of ambiguity and systems experimentation.

Corporate culture is modifiable as long as the whole leadership team, board and senior staff, can be brought to agreement on necessity and direction. Participation in a corporate level futures exercise might help point out the thinking barnacles hampering the organization.

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