Why Your Organization Sucks (And How to Change That)
But it’s not really your fault.
It just so happens that all of our organizations suck. And I mean this quite literally. They are life-sucking. Our companies — how they are structured now — suck in (at least) three ways:
1) They suck the resources from our planet — often with no long-term thought of the repercussions.
2) They suck the energy out of us — the people who work for them — by treating us like we are machines.
3) They suck the meaning from our existence through pointless tasks that don’t create any authentic value for us or larger society.
Often they suck in the more “informal” sense by being too slow, too bureaucratic and too static.
The organizational systems we’ve built encourage slowness over speed and command and control over collaboration.
They emphasize process over passion and homogeneousness over imagination.
They reward rule-makers instead of rule-breakers.
But a slow, process-driven, rule-ﬁlled world isn’t the world we live in — at least not anymore.
Our companies are built for a different time playing by yesterday’s rules, not tomorrow’s.
They’re living in a world that doesn’t exist.
This is a bit scary if we stop and think about it. Our business models — the very things that provide our livelihoods, pay our rent and buy food for our kids — are built on terribly antiquated practices. In most of our companies, we are using the organizational equivalents of lobotomies and bloodletting to try to ﬁx our problems. These destructive, outdated practices aren’t making anything better — and in many cases, they’re making things worse.
Let me provide a couple examples.
Phone Trees (Customer Engagement)
Would someone like to stand up and explain how an endless phone tree system helps customers feel “their call is important?” The only thing these modern-day torture devices do — when we ﬁnally break through to a representative — is condition us to forget that the person on the other end is a real human being.
Performance Reviews (Employee Engagement)
Can anyone actually make the argument that a typical weakness-focused performance review helps a business work better? Is helping us suck a little less than we did last year really our best path to excellence?
Do either of these things create any kind of real value? No. They are simply relics of a bygone era, and it would be nice if they’d go away faster. In place of these old-school, life-sucking traditions, we can and should create some new processes.
Instead of medieval methods of “talking” to customers, we can use web-based tools like Get Satisfaction or Workface to humanize the connection. More importantly though, we must recognize that the balance of power between buyers and sellers has shifted. Buyers now have more information than ever before, which means that we can’t just talk at them; we need to listen to them.
Your community is open to giving you feedback, I promise, but there needs to be a streamlined and simple way for them to give it. Of course, all the feedback in the world doesn’t matter one bit if your employees don’t care to do anything with it. Which brings us to…
For most of us, the work we do is complex — and getting more so with each day that passes. When work gets complicated, it requires more intrinsic motivation. Many people refer to this kind of internal drive at work as employee engagement. In other words, organizations now require the discretionary energy of their people to get work done. But this kind of energy isn’t accessed by dangling a carrot. Over the long term, you can’t pay for it or “threaten it” out of people. It can’t be taken at all. In fact, it can only be given.
If you want to make an immediate impact on engagement, start focusing on your people’s strengths. Employees who get to use their strengths every day are six times more likely to be engaged at work. More than that, you’re even making an impact on their overall well-being — these people are also three times more likely to be happier with their lives in general!
Our organizations suck now, but they don’t have to. By adjusting the way we think about our companies and making a few simple shifts, we can dramatically impact our workplace.
Wouldn’t you rather have a life-giving place to work anyway?
To learn more about changes in the business marketplace, read Josh Allan Dykstra’s book, “Igniting the Invisible Tribe: Designing An Organization That Doesn’t Suck,” You can connect with him on his website or on Twitter.
Josh Allan Dykstra is an author, speaker and co-founder of Strengths Doctors, a consulting firm which helps leaders and entrepreneurs design energizing company culture. His eclectic background spans Fortune 500 companies like Apple, Starbucks, Genentech, Sony and Viacom/CBS to startups, nonprofits and universities. He holds an MBA in executive leadership from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, and his new book, "Igniting the Invisible Tribe: Designing An Organization That Doesn’t Suck," is available now. Connect with him online at joshallan.com.