A cure for organizational reflux

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Yes, organizations have it, too. Leaders complain about it all the time. They can’t seem to get their people all headed in the same direction, especially at the top. The lack of alignment and ownership of the organization’s core beliefs, principles, vision, and strategy are some of the major defining symptoms of “organizational reflux.”

It doesn’t take an endoscope for us to know that most organizations suffer from reflux:

Silos that create walls and competition between functions even though they must work across boundaries in order to meet customer needs.

Hub-and-spoke leadership that reinforces the silos.

A performance management culture that reinforces independent achiever behavior and not collaboration.

A culture governed by politics and proximity to the senior leader.

As with human beings, reflux left unattended can result in serious dysfunction. But these dysfunctions are more than just a lack of effective communications across the organization causing misunderstanding and misperceptions. It’s more than just slower decision-making, greater risk in product/service quality, or a lack of best-practice innovation. Left untreated organizational reflux in this high intensity, complex market can lead to the loss of key people, the loss of market share or key customers, and even the eventual demise of the business.

There is a form of Prilosec® for organizational reflux. It is the creation of a highly aligned, collaborative, and interdependent organization:

It starts with leadership: It starts at the top with senior leadership making a commitment to this cultural and organizational direction. A clear set of core beliefs, guiding principles, and a vision for the business and workplace are the cornerstones for organizational health.

An aligned workforce: Leadership engages the second tier of management in building a shared understanding and agreement on the direction of the business and the culture, and together, they engage the organization.

Transparent: Leadership is transparent in its decision-making, and creates an ongoing process of two-way communications.

Focused on the business: Leadership harnesses its business objectives to that culture, and empowers teams to work collaboratively across boundaries to solve business challenges.

Collaboration is measured: Measurement of collaborative behavior rather than individual achievement is critical.

There is a cure for organizational reflux. But it starts with senior leadership who make a conscious choice to move their organization in the direction of collaboration and interdependence.

Marshall is a senior partner for organizational leadership at the Center for Creative Leadership in Greensboro, N.C. He is the author of “Building Trust at Speed of Change.” He can be reached at marshalle@ccl.org or 919-265-9616.