Organizations Are Their Own Worst Enemies

One of my cyber-colleagues, author and consultant Karl Albrecht, wrote recently: "My experience is that organizations are typically their own worst enemies; most of them don't need competitors to help them fail."

Alas this is so true. In my travels, I have seen this several times.

Once I saw arrogance and fear destroy a company. It was a family-run business, where the son was the CEO and his elderly father was the COB.

The young CEO was a brilliant hot-shot, highly educated and visionary. The executives under this CEO were smart and accomplished people, but they were intimidated. No one among them was able to stand up to the CEO and say that the "emperor had no clothes on." As a result, the company was financially destroyed by the reckless son and the "absent" father. Many employees were hurt by this debacle.

What can OD (organization development) practitioners do about this? When the CEO promotes a culture where dissent is punished, fear and self-preservation become the driving motivators. Expressing disagreement with the strategy will bring the speaker into conflict with the CEO. Such conflict can have a severely limiting effect on a career. So, rather than run such a risk, disagreement is held back. (The Abilene Paradox comes to mind.)

If the senior level team under the CEO lacks the courage to speak up, take a stand, and push back, what can the OD or HR folks do?

Comments

regina said…
Hi Terrence - thanks for touching base with me and quite a nice blog you've got here as well. Have you read of Manfred Ket's de Vries book Family Business: Human Dilemmas in the Family Firm? I studied this stuff with Manfred and others at Insead after having a few experiences of my own in family firms. So much transference going on...becomes difficult to assess and make the right intervention. Any way Manfred would say - "strike when the iron is cold." It takes big courage to confront (gently) the crazy ones to help them see their impact. Anyway, big topic with lots to talk about on it...Let's keep blogging on it...
Terrence Seamon said…
Hey Regina.
Thanks for posting a comment. Yeah, family businesses can be challenging.
Regards,
Terry
Bruce Lewin said…
Hi Terry,

Good stuff, we wrote something a little similar about organisational culture and the organisational shadow via Karl's mailing list :-)

I'm looking forward to more reading!

Bruce

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