Have you ever been involved in an organization and it felt like all you did all day was fight fires? A constant state of chaos with reaction after reaction. If you asked someone why a project wasn’t progressing in a timely fashion, they answered that there was never enough time because they were too busy handling x, y and z. How come everyone can make time to fight a fire but no one can make time to do the things that actually prevent the fire from happening in the first place? How does an organization become so riddled with problem after problem? Fire after fire. Bad luck after bad luck. Can a problem so complex have a simple answer? Yes! Yes, there is an answer as to why your organization is always in fire-fighter mode. Culture! Culture is the simple answer. Although it might be one simple word, having a healthy, positive and productive culture is complex and hard work. Without a wholistic and mindful approach to creating, recreating and maintaining workplace culture, firefighting itself can become the culture of an organization. When the leadership team applies the same time and effort to strategic planning as they would have to fire-fighting, the fires can finally start to suffocate.
Several years ago I took over as CEO for a company. The majority owner was an equity firm and they were very candid that the company was in dire straits and potentially not able to be turned around. They were not exaggerating! The organization had significant compliance and regulatory problems, legal problems, outcomes problems, product development issues, branding and reputation issues, and sales issues. The root cause of why they had all these issues was embedded in their culture. The organization was a product of several mergers and acquisitions. As the organization was in growth mode, no attention or strategy was put into how to mindfully merge the varying work cultures. The organization lacked a shared mission and vision. Nepotism became status quo in the organization. Few policies and procedures existed and the ones that did were created in vacuums without input or buy-in from the actual experts (the employees). There was no avenue for sharing best practices or resources. The workplace culture was one that rewarded the “heroes” for all their hard work putting out the fire, but no consequences or regards for how the fire started in the first place. Thoughtfulness, strategy, research, benchmarking, KPIs, data analysis were not activities that were positively re-enforced or recognized. Pats on the back were only given out for putting out a fire. Culture reinforces behavior. Step back, put on a pair of someone else’s glass and look carefully. What behaviors is your culture reinforcing?
A healthy and positive work culture is the difference maker between companies who flourish and companies who eventually fail. Growth is an exciting stage for a company. Many companies achieve short term success in spite of themselves. Fast growth coupled with strong financial success can mask the smoke that is just under the surface. But eventually that smoke will spark and become a fire. Sustainable growth requires a wholistic and mindful strategic plan. You can’t have a wholistic and mindful strategic plan if it doesn’t include your greatest asset (your employees!).
When you are ready to stop fighting fires and lead your organization to greater successes, contact Time To Flourish. To continue this conversation, please visit us at www.timetoflourish.net