Many organizations are currently struggling with the fact that goals can change rapidly. No sooner is a plan in place than it is no longer worth the paper it is written on.
The need for coordination between the individual teams is becoming more and more pronounced, leading to frustration and change, and quite useful to more and more “overhead costs”, which quickly hurt the financial result.
Top management demands higher productivity, and the lower levels suffocate in operative activities, which are increasingly overlaid by administrative tasks. Entire management levels are busily replanning the scarce resources again and again, and each planning step makes the situation worse rather than improving it. Managers thus become organizers of their teams and generate further overhead costs. There is hardly any time to do real leadership work, personnel development falls by the wayside, no time is taken to reflect on the processes, and so more and more sand gets into the gears.
In this “mixed bag” I have discovered some trends in the last few weeks that happen again and again:
- More of the same – more, better and new tools:
The lack of productivity that has emerged is often attributed to “bad” tools. New tools are quickly sought to solve the problem. Mostly these tools are prescribed top-down, because from the managing executive – usually 1 or 2 levels above the productive, operative level – they seem to make sense. The affected employees often do not change their working methods, reluctantly fill the new tool and hope that the next “sow” will soon be driven through the village. The half-hearted application of the latest tools requires further coordinative and administrative work, and the frustration increases. Without the tools being implemented and working methods changed, the next fancy machine soon appears, which gets into the focus of the management level, and again the attempt is made to implement a new tool. This does not change the overall situation – if it does, it will be worse rather than better. The negative spiral usually leads to new conflicts.
- The call for self-organized teams:
Some managers think that these problems would not exist if the teams were motivated to be self-organized and show more personal responsibility. The teams are encouraged to work in a self-organized way. If this concept is to work, the respective group and the manager need time to build up this competence. Self-organized teams need a visible picture of the purpose of their mission. The teams must have the chance to establish clear structures for cooperation and to learn together how decisions are made, how responsibility is shared and how the individual roles assumed by the team members “play together”.
- Previous strengths of the organisation suddenly become weaknesses because they hinder each other
Some young organisations are characterised by particular flexibility in the provision of services. Team members throw themselves highly motivated on every challenge and only give up when it is solved. This high motivation can turn into doggedness, into biting, into biting down, into well-trodden paths and can distort the view for new things. The high flexibility of individuals promotes the training of generalists, but not everyone can do everything. Specialists emerge who become pillars of the organisation, and so those who do not belong to this “sworn in” group fall through the grate as “2nd choice” for orders and projects. This working model works well until the specialists are fully utilized, and no more duplication of these resources is possible.
All the trends described are relatively easy to recognise from the outside, what fascinates me each time is that the patterns are often not seen from within the organisation. We, therefore, recommend that organisations that notice that things are starting to rub off in several places and that dissatisfaction is becoming noticeable in the teams should carry out a status assessment to find out where the best starting point is to get the organisation back on track. Similar to the operating system review for a computer that is getting slower and slower, we suggest that organizations that are noticeably slowing down and where it is starting to rub off should have an “operating system” review.
With the help of structured interviews, we identify the current situation and its areas of friction and draw up a development plan for realigning the organization to meet the current challenges successfully.
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