The Trap of False Ends



The first few weeks of a new consultation are tense. Information dumps are common: verbal, electronic and paper, sometimes redundant, sometimes contradictory, sometimes with telling gaps or omissions. Sideline, off-the-record commentaries are frequent. These are occasionally intended as parting shots, score-settling or blatant attempts to derail and confuse. Significant time must be invested to discern the actual versus the intentional. What really goes on versus what is supposed to happen. Discrepancies can be expected in many areas. The organizational chart may have little relation to the actual chain of command or even the chain of communication.

The part that always surprises me however, is the mental isolation of most employees and how hard that is to change. In all but the most seriously mismanaged organizations, people will have a functional sense of what their job is: what they are supposed to do. Rarely however, do they all understand their role in accomplishing the overall or long-term organizational goals as part of their job every day. Without that deep understanding, no one can distinguish the real end goal (organizational excellence) from the false goal of just getting through the day, doing the job and hoping, or assuming, that their contribution is both necessary and sufficient.

Even worse, employees can entirely substitute means for ends. That has occurred if people believe that their work is somehow separate from the strategic direction of the organization. I have had receptionists and office managers, even CFOs tell me that the new strategic plan doesn't affect them, that their work is in the background, a supporting role.

Leadership may be entirely unaware of this disconnect, or believe that other issues are more important. That is like bring half a team to the field of play. Change and excellence is not possible if only select people are involved. Creativity and innovation comes from across the organization and is part of everyone's job description.

Obvious, right? Why so uncommon then? And why so hard to correct? We will get into that in the next post.

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