Some believe it's possible to assess organizational health by looking at the numbers. They have dozens of "performance indicators," which they track diligently. Perhaps some of these data streams are helpful, but assessing organizational health by analyzing numerical data alone is a risky approach.
For example, I like to visit facilities in mid-afternoon and smell the air in the office and cubicle spaces. If I can't detect the odor of cold pizza, I begin to think that people are taking lunch breaks, spending time together in the cafeteria or at nearby restaurants. They aren't meeting over lunch, or responding to email from their desks, or racing to meet unreasonable deadlines between sandwiches and coffee.
All from the absence of old pizza smell. But it isn't the freshness of the air that's important; it's what the smell tells us about the behavior of the organization's people. Here are some other behaviors that suggest organizational health.
- When things go wrong
- When a failure happens, those whose actions contributed to the result acknowledge their contributions perhaps with some embarrassment, but definitely without fear. When people suspect that a problem might appear, they surface it immediately, rather than waiting until it's too late, all the while hoping the problem will go away.
- When things go right
- People share credit for successes. Supervisors credit their subordinates rather than claiming (or accepting) credit for themselves. When a team succeeds, instead of canonizing individuals, we honor the team as a team.
- People look forward to retrospectives
- We conduct retrospectives (also known as post mortems and after-action reviews). They're real opportunities to learn, rather than painful blamefests. We learn just as much from retrospectives when things go right as we do when things go wrong.
- When we're in financial trouble
- When a failure happens, those
who contributed to the result
acknowledge their contributions
perhaps with some embarrassment,
but definitely without fear
- When we're in the financial soup, we do reduce expenses, but we recognize that cost-cutting tactics aren't enough. We know that growth and investment are the only long-term answers, and we find ways to grow — with new approaches, new products, new services, and new capabilities. In our search, we listen to everyone — customers, ex-customers, consultants, and employees at all levels.
- When we disagree
- We recognize that our relationships must survive our debates. When we disagree with each other, we do so respectfully, because we acknowledge the possibility that people on any side of the question can be wrong. In fact, people on every side of the question can be wrong. And they can be right, too — you never know.
Most important, we have a commitment to our people. We want them to develop to their full potential. That means monitoring and mentoring; rotating assignments; holding everyone accountable for failures, and rewarding success with more challenging responsibilities. It means not only training, but ongoing education. Learning — and teaching — is part of the job.
Are your projects always (or almost always) late and over budget? Are your project teams plagued by turnover, burnout, and high defect rates? Turn your culture around. Read 52 Tips for Leaders of Project-Oriented Organizations, filled with tips and techniques for organizational leaders. Order Now!
Your comments are welcomeWould you like to see your comments posted here? rbrenXHmwiWmfSJKlSEhcner@ChacvhQLQPihqwgIpnkPoCanyon.comSend me your comments by email, or by Web form.
About Point Lookout
Thank you for reading this article. I hope you enjoyed it and found it useful, and that you'll consider recommending it to a friend.
Support Point Lookout by joining the Friends of Point Lookout, as an individual or as an organization.
Do you face a complex interpersonal situation? Send it in, anonymously if you like, and I'll give you my two cents.
More articles on Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness:
- How to Procrastinate
- You probably know many techniques for procrastinating, and use them regularly, but vociferously deny
doing so. That's what makes this such a delicate subject that I've been delaying writing this article.
Well, those days are over.
- Tactics for Asking for Volunteers: II
- When we seek volunteers for specific, time-limited tasks, a common approach is just to ask the entire
team at a meeting or teleconference. It's simple, but it carries risks. There are alternatives.
- Managing Hindsight Bias Risk
- Performance appraisal practices and project retrospectives both rely on evaluating performance after
outcomes are known. Unfortunately, a well-known bias — hindsight bias — can limit the effectiveness
of many organizational processes, including both performance appraisal and project retrospectives.
- Overconfidence at Work
- Confidence in our judgments and ourselves is essential to success. Confidence misplaced — overconfidence
— leads to trouble and failure. Understanding the causes and consequences of overconfidence can
be most useful.
- Wacky Words of Wisdom: IV
- Words of wisdom are pithy sayings that can be valuable so often that we believe them absolutely. Although
these sayings are often valuable, they aren't universally valid. Here's Part IV of a growing collection.
See also Personal, Team, and Organizational Effectiveness for more related articles.
Forthcoming issues of Point Lookout
- Coming February 21: The Ultimate Attribution Error at Work
- When we attribute the behavior of members of groups to some cause, either personal or situational, we tend to make systematic errors. Those errors can be expensive and avoidable. Available here and by RSS on February 21.
- And on February 28: Narcissistic Behavior at Work: I
- Briefly, when people exhibit narcissistic behavior they're engaging in activity that systematically places their own interests and welfare ahead of the interests and welfare of anyone or anything else. It's behavior that threatens the welfare of the organization and everyone employed there. Available here and by RSS on February 28.
I offer email and telephone coaching at both corporate and individual rates. Contact Rick for details at rbrensuFHcNszBbyxjYddner@ChacrucDMNBaTMMuCvHKoCanyon.com or (617) 491-6289, or toll-free in the continental US at (866) 378-5470.
Get the ebook!
Past issues of Point Lookout are available in six ebooks:
- Get 2001-2 in Geese Don't Land on Twigs (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2003-4 in Why Dogs Wag (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2005-6 in Loopy Things We Do (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2007-8 in Things We Believe That Maybe Aren't So True (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get 2009-10 in The Questions Not Asked (PDF, USD 11.95)
- Get all of the first twelve years (2001-2012) in The Collected Issues of Point Lookout (PDF, USD 28.99)
Are you a writer, editor or publisher on deadline? Are you looking for an article that will get people talking and get compliments flying your way? You can have 500 words in your inbox in one hour. License any article from this Web site. More info
- The Power Affect: How We Express Our Personal Power
- Many people who possess real organizational power have a characteristic demeanor. It's the way they project their presence. I call this the power affect. Some people — call them power pretenders — adopt the power affect well before they attain significant organizational power. Unfortunately for their colleagues, and for their organizations, power pretenders can attain organizational power out of proportion to their merit or abilities. Understanding the power affect is therefore important for anyone who aims to attain power, or anyone who works with power pretenders. Read more about this program.