A Maxi Post after a long time. Hope you read through and find value in this experiential piece in one of my leadership journey
This truly reflected what a particular organisation (hitherto successful) did when they wanted to step up to the next level – with the existing efforts and mindset this was virtually a non-starter. While heritage is a Strength of an organisation, when not harnessed the right way would surely be reduced to a baggage and a heavy one for the whole organisation to haul. This baggage famously known as the Corporate Cholesterol retards agility, creativity and responsiveness of the organisation. Unknowingly, a whole lot of resources would be directed to building of these very fats when things go well. This build-up becomes so intense yet invisible that it takes a heart attack to realise that it got this far. This is especially so in Corporates torn between “trying to be professional” and “proprietary firm mindset” of old timers.
A change manager was hired by an organisation (fits the above description to the “T”) to bring in changes to smoothly step to the next level of growth, stagnated for quite a while. He was assigned to head the biggest branch (by stakeholder strength, product spread, turnover and even real estate) and bring about the change here first. This executive with extensive experience in top notch Corporates that had to be technological & physically agile (due to the area of operations) realised pretty soon that it was the “Mindset” that was the Cholesterol primarily built from from the top and layered down to the last employee worth his/her salt. Lack of trust in ability and integrity of people working in this highly “Human Resource” Intensive organisation resulted in centralising all the powers and decision making to a Single person, let us call him the dreaded four lettered word – BOSS! Omnipresence being quality of God, this human BOSS could not watch over everyone’s shoulders all the time (though most of his productive hours went in that pursuit).
This culture was deep ingrained by those reporting to the BOSS that they became the “boss” for people down the line. The recipe for a major Heart Attack was slowly being written – Individual Silos built to protect their turf at various levels ensured that there was no circulation of positive energy flow between layers (laterally and vertically). No one trusted the other (saw this in case of a couple in this organisation, while one grudged the other getting recognised with an award)
Operations in this location started exactly 30 years ago and average service age was 15+ years. Many in the team also believed in this and told the executive as much.
Forget changing mindset of long entrenched, “passenger” mindset of the team. They are comfortable in their own silos and there is enough Cholesterol built up and thick skin too.
The first thing this executive did was to establish trust – First between him and his reportees and thereafter with each other. He also ensured that every single person was insulated from any kind of threats or intimidation or interference in his/her work. Excellence in Delivery of the designated and agreed task (agreed by the team member & signed off with their reporting Manager – it was no longer with the BOSS or boss). It did not take much time to see the turn around – less than 90 days. Every behavioural myth was broken.
To borrow from the best seller book “The Fish”, this particular branch from being the “Toxic Energy Dump” was now a darling location for all. Everyone on this campus was an epitome of happiness and vibrancy with positive energy.
Performance soared, people looked forward for sun to rise and rush to work, they considered each other as an excellent support system, professionally, personally, emotionally and spiritually too. A perfect example of Help everyone and Get helped by everyone! It was a ship that sailed perfectly in a still ocean and choppy waves were absorbed effortlessly. Every one became a perfect living example of Leading from Behind. Boat sailed well, as in the earlier days for 3 long years. Miles were covered, all challenges conquered and were relishing the fruits at every harbor. It was no less than a fairy tale situation, too good to be true and too good to last. Undercurrents began to slowly surface, surprisingly it was not from within the team.
Well entrenched and boss and silos began to be shaken. Cholesterol are known to be stubborn fats – which did not want to release its vice like grip. If you were looking for an example of Parent grudging the success of the Child, here it was. I have referred to as the “Raman Syndrome (nothing to do with Nobel Prize winner)” in another piece Ramans of Work place – Not a Myth! This sense of threat (misplaced one obviously) by the Raman a.k.a the BOSS made him make the seas choppy. In the name of recognition and growth the bosses who were convinced by leading from behind were moved to different roles – a change just for the sake of change (for ulterior motives, we can say with benefit of hindsight). Cholesterol found pliant fat cells, the Organisational Yes-men, not necessarily horse for the course who were again put in places to dissolve the insulation for the people down the line and create chinks in those armours. An open office is very threatening and challenging to a Manager. Especially those with a historical Type A leadership style which would be a misfit in this Knowledge-worker, Rights-aware, Opportunity-aplenty age. What Raman did not realize that Different types of Leadership like Antique furniture exist for different values as I discuss here Leadership – Antique Value or Utility Value. But then it was desperate times to prove what a child can do it, parent can do it even better. Then came the over-enthusiastic, relocated silo, the new boss who also was shaken out of the cosy comfort of status quo earlier, wanted to prove the BOSS that everything of the intervention was opposite of what original values were. Undoing the gains and getting back to Blue Ocean thinking that it is never going to be Red. Status Quo was comfortable but possibility of Heart Attacks? Worse still, is when fats can turn carcinogenic. Restoration work began in full earnest. It was back to status-quo to prove older methods still can work today. Started using Alcohol as an anaesthetic to prove that it is as effective or better than Xenon – pain became visible and felt by everyone around. To borrow from Change Management Expert Tori Reid :
If you constantly change your to-do app, route to work, lane on the highway, or line at the supermarket, you probably know that at some point you’re just spinning your wheels.
Don’t Change for Change Sake & definitely not thoughtlessly
And watching this pile of fats, reminds me of the proverbial over-enthusiastic demolition man – who in trying to impress the BOSS in a demolition spree would end up like the one below. This man has an impressive track record of demolition anything that he touches (atleast 4 instances of near closures) , even without a hammer – the man with SADIM touch
Would like you to read this piece of mine, when the Jealous & Feels Threatened BOSS, dished out some advise, not only chose wrong example and secondly he understood it grossly wrong (Happens when you love to hear your own voice a lot). Anyone cannot do a job, it requires someone with skill and commitment. The one will real capability will agree and live the dictum “We are not the Doers – What it really means “
Clicking on the links will take you additional reading (pieces written by me)