September 2015

. . . helping organizations find solutions to people-related problems


When you got up this morning, what's the first thing you did? Whatever it was, was it consistent with your goals and objectives for the day, for the year, for your business, for your life, for your family? Chances are it was the first thing you did yesterday and the day before that and the day before that. Most of us are clearly victims of yesterday, of our past patterns and habits. In facilitating strategic or offsite organizational planning over the years, I sometimes ask male participants where they start shaving in the morning. Sometimes the first response is "In the bathroom." "No, I'm looking for a little more detail." Like "Downward from the right sideburn" or "Up from under my chin" or . . . . Next question: "Why?" "Did your dad teach you, maybe an uncle?" "Did you learn just by observing dad or uncle or somebody?" Answer: "I really don't know."

In working with groups and organizations, I write on the board: "Knowing is one thing; doing is another." Often we know a lot we do not do, and we do a lot and do not know why. While past patterns and habits imprison us in many ways as individuals, they also imprison us as groups, teams, and organizations; and as a result, it takes a uniquely powerful force or a serendipitous shock to move us out of our past-pattern zone.

The power and prevalence of past-patterns is the chief reason underscoring the value of taking a fresh look at your company and how it is behaving. This is especially true if you have a haunting sense that you and your leaders are not operating at optimum levels. It is time for an independent organizational assessment or, at the very least, some targeted coaching intervention and support.

In business as in sports, the coach cannot be a player. CEO's sometimes make the mistake of thinking they can play and coach too. It's admittedly an attractive deception. The coach must have extensive experience and professional insight from observing many players and many teams, but also have the distance, objectivity, and courage to earnestly assess performance of the whole team, including the CEO and other senior leaders, performing together against clearly stated goals and objectives.

One way to view an organization is as a pie with three slices: One slice is Doing--what the organization does as its reason for being: Provides a service, makes a product, manages funds. The second slice is Administrative--how it controls what it does: Policies, procedures, accounting, compliance. And the third slice is the Human Dimension--that is, everything to do with planning, organizing, leading, coordinating, communicating, and evaluating the performance of the organization in doing its work.

In the interview process essential to a thorough, professional organizational health assessment, supervisors and employees will observe that here the Human Dimension slice is much smaller than the other two. In other words, while management talks a good game, the day-to-day reality is that the elements above--communications, leadership, and collaboration, for example--are given less emphasis and attention than production, administrative bureaucracy, and "just get it done."

There is a well-known story of a very successful company. Then suddenly one day the machinery stopped working, production plummeted, supervisors and employees had to be laid off, union officials were up in arms, and no one could figure out how to get things moving again. In desperation after a few weeks, the company's president engaged a consultant to search for a solution. The consultant arrived, studied the operation, and discussed relevant management and technical issues. Finally, he took a small hammer out of his black bag and tapped a small pipe located in a remote area of the plant and suddenly all systems began to function properly again. Management was euphoric, furloughed managers and employees returned to work, union leaders were thrilled. When the company president received the consultant's invoice, it said "Professional Consulting Service Fees: For applying hammer to operating systems pipe: $10; Knowing where to tap: $1000."

Warm regards

Dave Martin


HRA Services, Inc.

"Applying Systematic Thinking to the Human Dimension"