Organizational excellence – Performance challenges

March 21, 2011 at 10:12 am | Posted in Blogroll, Organizational Excellence | Leave a comment

Earlier I had mentioned about the book “Radical management” by Stephen Denning. Recently, I found some interesting thoughts related to performance challenges which are worth sharing; hence I am quoting them below.

One such area is lack of transparency. It requires seeing the workplace as it is, rather than as we would like it to be, and be willing to do something about it. In organizations where there is no transparency, false statements that support the power structure of the hierarchy get precedence over true statements that put the power structure in question. Everybody in a power structure tends to go on acting as though right is wrong and black is white because their own role in the structure depends on defending it.

The executive management plays a key role in creating the transparency. In organizations where the management questions the integrity of the person asking uncomfortable questions, it is difficult for any team to discuss issues openly. They will be seen as rocking the boat and not being team players. As a result, most teams go with the flow and lose any possibility of achieving high performance. A few courageous teams may speak out about the issue and point to the truth. But those teams are rare, and their life expectancy is typically not long.

As I had mentioned earlier, the book uses concepts from Scrum and applies them to organizational activities of a wide variety. Some of the practices that help transparency are daily standup meetings, identification & removal of impediments and simple visual displays that everyone can see. They make covering up far more difficult. For organizational activities, based on different ways of organizing the teams and the nature of work the frequency of standup meetings may vary. But the basic intention is to keep everybody updated about progress & risks in meetings of short duration and it greatly helps.

One of the three practices cited above, namely the identification & removal of impediments is very critical to tackle the performance challenges. In organizations that aspire to delight the clients, managers and workers must become more open with each other about the impediments that prevent high performance. They cannot consistently delight the clients if discussing impediments is discouraged or if people are telling each other what they want to hear or only so much as they need to know. It requires total openness about any impediments to the work: everyone levels with everyone else.

Another important issue is how we deal with failures. Wrong managerial attitude towards failure can create a self-fulfilling prophesy. By punishing failure, failure becomes even harder to find. In big bureaucracies, failures can go on for months, years, even decades, without being rectified. Over time problems build up behind the scenes and then suddenly they explode in the open. What is required is to accept the inevitability of failure and put arrangements in place to learn rapidly from failure and progress towards success. Making failure so visible can make individuals and organizations uncomfortable, particularly those who have been living with no accountability for a long time. But once they see that right attitude towards failures is essential and beneficial, they tend to fall in line.

I am also reading another interesting book “The Three Laws of Performance” by Steve Zaffron & Dave Logan. It deals with other important aspects of performance challenges and ways to overcome them. I hope to share those inputs soon.

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