Working Through A Dysfunctional Organization

There are many opinions and articles available on the web that discuss the traits of a top-performing individual, as well as characteristics of low performers. But often neglected are the people in the middle. Independent research concludes that there is a significant gap between top-level performers and the average employee.

According to Harvard Business Review, the best way to improve performance for a company is by focusing on improving, coaching, and motivating the people in the middle. Many in the low-performance tier of an organization tend to be a bad fit, something coaching cannot fix.

However, that is NOT true when looking at employees in the mid-levels, approximately 60% of an organization. The idea is to develop mid-level employees, so they possess outstanding skills owned by top performers.

Any organization would be transformed if its mid-level employees improved their performance levels. Imagine if they could:

  • Initiate self-direction — They would be self-motivating, with a desire to learning new skills, and always seeking to improve without external prompting.
  • Encourage feedback to develop better performance — They would gladly receive instructions and corrections, just to ensure they operate at peak levels and deliver quality in all they do.
  • Engage in problem-solving — They would seek resolution to issues, always with the intent to preserve the group.
  • Manage time to avoid gaps — They would plan their workday for optimal performance, properly plan project tasks, and hit their target dates.
  • Develop order and process — They would organize their core activities, define procedures, and write definitive steps to accomplish successful actions for future reference.
  • Promote good, positive energy — They would encourage co-workers, open and accessible, always promoting ways to grow.
  • Maintain healthy working relationships — They would immediately address issues between others, encourage teamwork and engage in activities to strengthen bonds.
  • Possess good networking skills — They would know how to work with customers, develop new business relationships, and create a proper professional social network.

These skills would be ideal for any individual or organization. The problem is that many people find themselves unable to develop top-level skills due to an unhealthy or dysfunctional work environment.

Dysfunction is defined as “abnormal or unhealthy interpersonal behavior or interaction within a group.” Activities that contribute to this compromising environment isn’t limited to an organization, as individuals can also be dysfunctional. The challenge, however, is greater when the dysfunction lies within an organization.

Unfortunately, many companies prefer leaders who “go along” and “get along” rather than lead, perpetuating the dysfunction in their organization. Managers are instructed to maintain an even-running department, forcing employees to operate within a box of mediocrity. The larger the organization, the greater the potential where the unwritten mantra is to preserve the status quo.

Pat Brans, author and professor, identified five common traits found in a dysfunctional organization worth noting:

  • Misunderstood Mission — There is a trickle-down effect when leaders fail to understand their purpose. Every employee in the organization must be able to articulate the company mission and ensure all actions align to fulfilling it.
  • Lack of Consensus — Team members need to share a view of the problem they need to resolve, which leads to setting priorities. Without a consensus, teams tend to work independently of each other. And yet, reaching a consensus doesn’t mean that teams work together to find solutions.
  • Misunderstood Strategy — When misunderstood, individuals depend upon their perception and interpretation. Strategies must be clear, believed, and integrated into everyday activity.
  • Lack of Team Cohesion — Don’t underestimate the power of working together. Employees desire community, trust between team members and their leaders. Without this bond, teams operate as individuals, focused on self-preservation and self-promotion.
  • Lack of Resources — Tools, materials, and people must be available when required. Without these received at the appropriate time, the job won’t get done.

How can this vicious cycle of mediocrity be broken? It begins by acknowledging the dysfunction. In the “Mistakes Leaders Make” lessons, found in the Ability Platform extensive library, eight additional signs of a dysfunctional organization are presented.

Consider these four signs of a dysfunctional organization. Ask yourself if these signs exist in your company:

  • Live in Constant Emergency — There are times when a group operates in a crisis mode to meet a deadline or handle unexpected demands. But this continual rush and demand cannot be maintained indefinitely.
  • Adopt the Strategy of the Day — New trends and persuasive ideas cause a dysfunctional organization to abandon current strategies and embrace the new in hopes of achieving promised outcomes.
  • Stress Resources Beyond Capabilities — Commits to new project just to earn income are made without consideration of current workloads or additional hours employees are already working.
  • Allow Groups to Separate from Teams — Large organizations tend to create independent profit centers, especially if there are diverse products and services. But every group must remain connected to the organization, rather than operating as lone wolves.

Call to Action — Address the Dysfunction

If mid-level employees are to improve their performance, then organizations must provide the proper environment that fosters growth. While this is a team effort, seniors in any organization set the pace. If the dysfunction is with a department or group, then engage the team.

Begin by identifying the dysfunction. For example, let’s address the four dysfunctions presented in this blog:

  • Resolve Constant Emergency — Isolate activities and tasks that create the emergency.
    • Implement better time management, including training employees.
    • Add extra time to all projects timelines before accepting the work as an extra buffer.
    • Define procedures for setting up projects, handling deadlines, rejecting tasks out of scope. Enforce procedures, holding the form of the organization.
  • Resolve Strategy of the Day — Encourage individuals and teams to review new trends.
    • Write a summary review of the new trends and/or technology, including proposed benefits.
    • Share with other key employees to help evaluate the value proposal.
    • Offer an implementation plan for review and wait for feedback before making any decision.
  • Resolve Stressed Resources — Take an inventory of available resources and determine the proper workload an individual or team can be assigned, without compromising on quality or meeting deadlines.
    • Negotiate and adjust deadlines when determining new projects.
    • Consider outsourcing portions of the work when an individual or team is already stressed, rather than asking employees to work longer hours. Allow the individual or team to focus on the larger, more important tasks that require their skills and experience. Outsource the rest.
    • Continually review ways to improve performance. Add to the team when and where possible.
  • Resolve Lone Wolf Groups — Resist the pressure from lone wolves to operate outside of the group or organization.
    • Revise language in policies that divide individuals, groups, and departments.
    • Allow individual or team to see how their contribution impacts the entire organization.
    • Foster teamwork, ensure individuals and groups understand the company mission and vision.

Remember that it takes time and consistency to overcome dysfunction. As an individual, focus on improving your skills, primarily on those listed in this blog. Avoid training that isn’t direct, offer practical solutions, or requires additional purchases for that “magic potion.”

MaxIT understands that it takes hard work to become top performers. So they offer short, video-based micro-lessons organized into collections of similar content called Learning Paths. The collection is put together by subject matter experts, with clear and engaging presentations, complete with follow-up activities.

Mistakes Leaders Make ” is just 1 of 9 topics, 47 video lessons in the Leadership Learning Path. This is one of 100+ Learning Paths found with Ability Platform. Start immediately and improve your skills.

Remember, MaxIT’s mission is for you to become a top performer in your industry. Don’t have access to the 100+ Learning Paths? Then register for a Free 7-Day Trial and start with the “Mistakes Leaders Make” lessons today. This lesson will change the way you work with your customers!

Become that the top performer. If you are a manager, then take that first step to transform your organization.

“You never fail until you stop trying.” — Albert Einstein.

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