Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Your ORG Chart is a BLAME flow chart

Your organization's org chart might be more about defining a flow for blaming someone rather then helping you to understand how the organization actually works.

Traditionally companies create an organization chart to provide order to the madness and chaos.  The org chart generally contains a name, and a title and provides this nice neat way to see who reports to who and who might have information that you might need to get.  Boxes neatly contain people, grouped into other groups who report to managers who report to VPs and so on.  The problem I see is that this same problem solving org chart can be used as a huge bat to bonk you on the head in an organization that values a command and control attitude.

In a traditional company (one that is likely headed for a huge spiral of death at some point, another post for sure) the managers all feel the need to manage.  Managers are provided arbitrary features, that need to be done by arbitrary dates or at least it seems that way.  Work items tend to lack context for why they need to be done in the first place.  The missing context forces managers to attempt to fill in blanks with what they already know or can easily find out.  This picture will be incomplete - but the all important DATE which was derived based on this information will be held sacrosanct.  The team will work to deliver by that date, but will invariably run over and release some time after the original date.  Sometimes this late delivery causes other things to slip and on and on.

No one is specifically held accountable for these date slips in the organization, but what starts to happen is that work items requested and placed onto a group but not completed begin to get noticed by anyone in that reporting tree on the org chart (remember that all important information dissemination device). This is a terrible reflection on the ability of that group of people from the org chart to deliver so blame starts to be laid.  This blame may start at the lowest level, but soon works its way up the org chart and around the org chart following the connections on the org chart.  This is a terrible feedback loop however, as blame makes people more defensive, and more likely to want to have really tight control over what is being requested and what promises are being made in relation to delivery.  In the end - the org chart might actually be the worst thing for the company as it describes a way to shirk accountability off onto someone else for a failed effort.

In the reverse this same chart can indicate who to praise when things go right, but lets face it if your organization is already command and control it might be the exception rather than the rule that someone is getting praised for independent effort and thinking.

Imagine what would happen however if the org chart showed nothing more than how the 'teams' (cross-functional teams) related to one another, you might still be able to assign blame, but now its a team blame - which is easier to own up to and take accountability for.  You org chart now isn't describing reporting structure and is less useful in providing a blame path and more useful in providing a way to discover where answers to specific questions can be had.  It revalues the relationship of who reports to who into a teaming thing and a matrix idea.  We might be better for a change like this in our companies.

Just a thought.

EDIT: I should add that this thought process was inspired by the comment from Claudio Perrone's presentation @ LSSC 2012.

Gentle Strenth - Wizdom Applied

My friend Karl Martino said to me one day a few weeks ago that I had wisdom. I laughed a little at the remark, which in retrospect I think I should apologize to Karl for as he was genuinely attempting to pay me a compliment. I thanked him but told him that I do not feel wise. I did however walk away from that conversation with a number of things spinning around in my head. These thoughts coalesced the Sunday of that same week when I was @ church, and my churches minister delivered a sermon on "Gentle Strength".

My minister opened with saying he was standing in a mess hall with the 3rd Battalion, 47th infantry regiment - waiting to deploy to the middle east with a peace keeping force. There were pictures hung all around the room with quotes under neath them - the picture above his head had the following quote:

"Nothing is so strong as gentleness and nothing so gentle as real strength" 

Which he wrote down in his notebook and noted that the quote was not attributed to an author on the picture.

Going further into the sermon - the minister asked (and I am paraphrasing here):

Is gentle strength like the lioness carrying around her cubs despite those same jaws being used to feed her family by killing during a hunt her prides next meal, or the mother grizzly caring for her cubs but being the largest and potentially most fearsome of the North American animals. These animals are gentle with their young, but would resort to extreme violence in order to protect their young or if the need arose to go get food.

I really got caught up with this idea of gentle strength because I saw similarities in what Karl had called wisdom and what I was trying to become in my life - strong in leadership, but gentle in my exercise of the same. I really want to be a force to be reckoned with but to do so with a disciplined power, a gentle strength - so as not to leave a path of dismayed and destroyed in my wake and charge to make the world a better place.

My desire for this comes from several places, but I believe it to be brought from my experiences, the places I have been, the people in my life and the childhood I lived. I have certainly struggled to get my 'strength' under control, using my words to cut people, cut at them, or cut them down. However eventually being able to understand that I had an ability that others did not and what that abilities really deep and lasting affect on others was lead me to want to change that interaction. Call it self knowledge or self actualization but it came as I was on an internal search for a way to harness what was available to me and was 100% under my control.

I had used the ability to read and understand people to great positive and negative effect (mostly negative). My interaction with one person in particular had always had some ups and downs but was most of the time caustic and rather vitriolic. My understanding of the impact of this ability however was made clear to me in a single moment one winter around Christmas.

That year, many years after all those interactions had faded and were somewhat forgotten, a friend of mine indicated what sort of affect my words had on who they were, and what the affect of my "ability" was on the person they eventually became, how the way in which we spoke had impacted them, how my action had impacted them. That simple point, an instruction on life, THE thing that helped to move me along my path was right there - sitting in front of me and asking for nothing in particular, nothing more than clearing the air with me. That moment provided so much too me, I am ever so grateful for.

What solidified for me right then is that these types of learning experiences are all around us and can surface in ways we do not yet understand or expect. Take for instance how this post opened - with a friend of mine saying simply that he thought I had wisdom. I don't feel wise, I am just trying to live my life and leave people better for having met me, better for having known me, better for having touched paths with me - no more and NO less than what I get from them... those people that I interact with. I can expect nothing more and can give NO less than my very best every day - I can only attempt to apply a gentle strength to everything I do and apply wisdom (even if its just a perception of wisdom).

Oh, for those interested - that quote from unknown - the minister did find the original author eventually: The quote was from St. Francis DeSales, a man of faith - coming from a different place to the same conclusion.