The Quick & the Dead: Creating the High-Response Organization
By Jim Cardwell, CEO, Cardwell and Karla Norwood, President, Connections Online
In the “Darwinian” business world, the strong survive – and only the fast become strong. There’s a constant need for speed: New competition arises . . . technology changes . . . new ventures and partnerships are formed . . . new products are developed . . . old ones die. Change comes from inside and from outside in rapid bursts. The result is two kinds of organizations: The Quick and the Dead.
The business world’s pursuit of speed is unrelenting. And every new wrinkle requires a change in your organization. But how do you adapt correctly and consistently?
People adjust to change in different ways. One executive may take a step forward in response. Another, a step to the left in response to the same change. Another, a step back. The result is fuzziness and a lack of individual confidence about where to go or how to get there. You end up with an organization moving like an amoebae — a pseudopodia in this direction, another in that direction — and movement becomes random and undirected. And you wonder why middle management sometimes wanders the hallways scratching its collective head . . . “Do you know what’s going on?” “No, not me. . .”
Every inconsistent message from senior management is magnified as it is interpreted down through the organization, like the action of a lever in reverse.
Organizations need a more evolved nervous system to connect the parts (people) and to provide strategic understanding and direction. If separate or uncoordinated systems were advising each of our legs and each of our arms, we’d never be able to crawl, never mind walk. Let’s get it together.
Think of a general in the heat of battle. He’s constantly receiving and disseminating information to his charges. It’s rare that someone does not know his or her role or what to do. Response is immediate to a change in enemy position, strength and tactic.
The business world, however, is not conditioned, predisposed, flexible enough — or, often, even aware of the need — to sharpen response time to the multiple stimuli we are always receiving. We think we have the luxury of time. Our nervous systems tend to be as slow as the first personal computers introduced a decade and a half ago.
Gone are the days of the annual retreat to set strategy and direction. The cycle is now shorter, much shorter.
There’s a way to respond. Sharpen your communication channels. Develop processes to tie everyone in your organization together with knowledge, understanding, support and direction. It’s a people thing. And it’s a vision thing.
That’s what this book is about. When you give people information, you respect them. When you give respect, you get trust. In a trusting environment, anything is possible. It all starts, though, with creating perpetual pathways for information. It’s time to get wired.
The Wiring Diagram
If all of your people had extremely vivid imaginations — and could read minds — you wouldn’t need to get wired. Think, however, what would happen if you could improve imagination and provide a system that would substitute for mind-reading. Think connections.
That’s what it’s all about: Sharing information, ideas, expectations; providing assistance through coaching and training; and shaping behavior through feedback, recognition and development. Out of this evolves a climate of mutual support.
Sound tough? No. It’s simple. And simplicity is its own reward.
Visit the link to our Wiring Diagram. This diagram connects — through a constant process — what are often disparate elements in today’s organization. Much of this will not be new. The linkages and holistic view, however, are new.
The best organizations establish vision and values. They can define business goals, establish priorities, and know how to measure results. They have a flexible organizational structure in place that serves their needs. The best organizations will also establish teams. All of this falls into the category of strategic thinking. This is the stuff you need to do before you can do all the other stuff.
A study by Northwestern University and KPMG found that about 80 percent of organizations do these things — the planning. So, where is the breakdown? In making it work — in reality. The same study found that only about 20 percent of organizations were able to make their plans happen. The organization was not necessarily resisting the plan — it was ignorant of it. All too often, the essential information is considered too valuable to share: “This is our strategic plan but it’s top secret.” Or, there is no way to get the messages down into the organization. Or both.
People are generally willing to go along with a plan when they understand it and feel as though they are a part of it. It’s pretty basic psychology. People, however, get lost in implementation. You might communicate an annual plan with them in January, but you don’t let them know about the 30 degree turn in February, or the 20 degree turn in March, or the 80 degree turn in April. By the time you are into the second quarter, it doesn’t make sense anymore. Some of what you started with in January has become obsolete. You know that, but the people laboring mightily to realize your vision are in the dark.
Yeah, we know. You’re busy. There’s a lot to do. There’s no easy system in place to update vision, target goals, priorities, etc.
It’s now May and your people think that the bonus goals set in January still apply. They think that the priorities set for them in January will reward them next January. They think that if there was something they needed to know, you would tell them.
The reason they think this is because it is a reasonable expectation. They haven’t been told otherwise. They are operating under the assumption that if there was really something for them to know . . . they’d know it.
This is a symptom of a bigger problem. The speed of change has overwhelmed your ability to feed change into the organization.
How can everyone make high-quality decisions without a precise goal — along with a definition of authority, license, and expectations — crystallized in their minds? The precise goal is an elusive, ever-moving target. However, if every decision not only supports the organization’s direction but also boosts the individual’s self-worth and contribution, we’re in good synch. That’s how wiring the organization will work for you.
The first seven chapters describe each part of the wiring diagram and how they relate. The final chapter pulls it all together and provides a “workbook” to help your organization Get Wired.
The above excerpt is taken from the introduction to Cardwell’s book on connections for a F.A.S.T. (Flexible, Aligned, Strategic, and Team accountable) organization, entitled “Getting Wired.” The book covers such topics as strategic thinking, organizational response, and leadership all to help you create and maintain a F.A.S.T. credit union. For your free copy of “Getting Wired,” please click here or contact Jim Cardwell or Karla Norwood at Cardwell, 800-395-1410. Visit our Connections Online website: www.connectionsonline.net.
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