Decision Making and Culture Change: The Anexoria Syndrome

CAUTION! If culture change is underway in your company, beware of the skeletons accumulating in your closet.

Organizational anexoria is wreaking havoc on workplaces today. Like anything that starts out with good intentions, there is a tipping point past good, that creates bad side effects you didn’t intend. In the current economic climate, businesses are at significant risk on this scale.

Mastering the Rockefeller Habits” is a “how-to” leadership credo, credited with improving a company’s profitabilty to three times industry averages, boosting cash flow to twice that of its industry and increasing market valuation by a factor of 10. Individual executives report time savings of up to 35 hours per week. All based on common-sense advice.

Rockefeller’s core premise — which made him billions — was that success is the sum total of all decisions made in an organization. Sounds pretty simple right?

Given we are all smart people with track records of good decision making, why aren’t we all billionaires?

Because in the quiet of solitude, most leaders know they aren’t really getting this territory right in their business. Today, you succeed more by how well you BUILD decision makers, not by how well you MAKE decisions.

A summary of the decision reality in most companies today:

  • Companies have cut management layers to the bone to compete in a global economy. Executives typically have double the number of reports compared to five or ten years ago. Even leaders with great skill and motivation to develop their people are finding themeselves spread too thin to give people adequate guidance and effective mentoring, especially in delicate territory such as handling conflict, managing change, and influencing without authority.
  • Increasingly, employees — especially those in their 20’s and young 30-s — are working without a net. Diverse groups — culturally and generationally — are left to figure out figure out how to implement complex projects without much coaching (until a crisis hits). Managers are too busy to really develop their people, so their people don’t learn the “behind-the-scenes” tactics of good decision making in business (beyond the MBA). The result is managers feel people are not accountable and cannot be trusted with full decision authority. Decision paralysis results, and projects and budgets run over.
  • Projects are given a “holy water blessing” by a senior executive, and often left to sink or swim when encountering complicated boundary and “resistance” dynamics. Changes that require multiple collaborative efforts across funcational lines languish in a desert of misunderstanding and “we’ve always done it this way, I know better” pushback. And overwhelmed executives don’t have time to run interference. This is a top cause of derailed projects and recommendations.
  • The “knowledge economy” demands relevant, meaningful information be transferred quickly so people can act fast. Technology is not the only answer — strong mentoring and relationship building programs are proven to be crucial, and also to retain better talent. But too many actfeel like these investments are icing on the cake — tastes great, but we don’t really need those extra calories do we?

In a time when businesses need consistent, faster execution of key strategies and “global competition” that is fiercer by the day — a short-sighted starvation diet weakens core strengths that help you run faster and lift more. We consider them a bit like getting fat, even when they are the main source of healthy bottom lines: Collaboration. Innovation. Smart risks without over-analysis. Fast decisions.

Fortunately, experience proves that a few relatively small steps can really make a big difference in moving you from a lettuce-and-mustard diet to something more sustainable:

1) Train leaders to be skilled facilitators and collaborators. One of the highest leverage changes every oganization we work in needs to make, is get better at penetrating the walls across the company, to speed up decision making and implementation of projects.

2) Ensure you have a performance accountability structure that requires: (a) Clear goals; (b) Assessment on the company values; and (c) Frequent progress conversations that have honest feedback at their foundation and review progress several times a year.

3) As our current economic crisis demonstrates, milk does not spoil overnight. The results of today’s decisions may not spoil the P&L for months or even years, depending on momentum, industry dynamics, and the size of the company.

Are your organization’s decision-making habits strengthening your competitive  as a competitor or leading your company to slow starvation?





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