How Organizations Die From Within
An organization’s deadliest enemies are internal. How we treat each other while we face external challenges determines our ability to win.
Internal environments are more important than external issues.
Organizations exist to maximize the power of diversity. We’re better together, only if we honor, develop, and harness difference.
3 ways organizations die from within:
#1. Judging others by your uniqueness rather than theirs.
You can’t maximize diversity and expect everyone to be like you.
Intolerance produces sideways energy, or worse yet, people pulling against each other. When this happens, competitors win and customers lose.
#2. Confusion regarding your place and contribution.
You can thrive in nearly any organization if you feel you belong and your contribution matters. (Compensation aside.) This idea speaks to the value and power of leaders.
Have conversations that address questions like:
- What value are you bringing?
- What makes you feel devalued?
- How might we show respect to each other?
- How might we lessen pressure to conform? This includes celebrating constructive dissent, eliminating the trappings of power, and adapting when new ideas emerge.
- How might individual purpose find expression in organizational goals? (This assumes that leaders are prepared to explore purpose with team members.)
#3. Lack of shared accountability.
Problem solving, new initiatives, and project meetings are a delusional waste of time apart from shared accountability.
If we fail it’s not one person’s fault.
- How do you declare and define accountabilities?
- What happens when someone drops the ball? Is it their fault or our fault?
- Where is the “we” when things don’t get done? If success is the result of how we work together, so is failure.
Failing organizations are like a chicken coop. When one chicken has a flaw, the others peck at it.
In an all for one – one for all organization, one person’s failure is everyone’s failure.
What destroys organizations from within?
How might leaders address internal enemies?
Dan, thanks so much for the ongoing conversation. I believe that organizations die when they begin to define themselves by their do, instead of their who. The first place the organization serves is the culture to which it is assigned. If you forget your assignment, you have lost your vision. Some churches feel that they are called to ‘reach the lost’ but that is everyone, at some point or another. Organizations are born as a result of a solution that produces an outcome desired. If the organization isn’t delivering a solution they are dying. I believe a church’s primary function is to carry, communicate and impartate (new word) the presence of the Lord. When it stops that it becomes an ideology.
Thanks Anthony. I’m glad you bring the nonprofit world to the conversation. What really struck me is “Organizations are born as a result of a solution that produces an outcome desired.” I find that concept forward facing as long as the solution is impactful.
I believer problems are part of the formula, but it’s the solution (the value we add) that sustains us.
Hello, Dan – and Leadership Freak followers,
A wise leader once said that “the best customer service is how we serve our fellow teammates…” Have a safe weekend, everyone.
Thanks Bob. Back when putting employees first was unheard of, the founders of Southwest Airlines did it. We all know how that worked out for them.
If we don’t take care of others, they’ll leave and find someone who will. They may have left emotionally a long time ago..
In my experience, organizations die from within by not having everyone pull in the same direction. Individuals and groups within bigger organizations sometimes have different and conflicting ideas of “what success is” and different and conflicting interpretations of the organization’s mission. My take has been that it’s incumbent on the person at the top of the heap to make sure all the players are on the same page as to mission and the definition of success. I would be interested in hearing different views.
Thanks Anon. The first step to winning is defining the win. 🙂 It’s amazing how we can work really hard and, at the same time, forget why we’re working in the first place.
I like the metaphor of pulling in the same direction. Even a little sideways action is a great hindrance to winning.
I might suggest that it’s incumbent on leadership to set the direction and instigate conversations where short-term definitions of success are crafted together. I’m not suggesting that organizational mission is up for grabs. How we win in the short-term depends on the horses in the barn. This approach elevates the necessity of transparency with information and intention.
Thank you for this insight. I’m mostly coming at these topics as an executive director who has worked with volunteer boards of directors in the nonprofit arena, where best practices say the board and the ED should lead in partnership. Of course, that’s easier said than done, especially when the ED reports to the board and when directors don’t fully understand or buy into the mission and re-define it in their own minds. In the nonprofit world with its volunteer boards, I’ve seen this happen frequently. It’s kind of a mess!
I read your post and applied the info on a slightly larger scale. Thinking about our country … “An organization’s deadliest enemies are internal. How we treat each other while we face . . . challenges…” Eeeeeek?! Worried about our future. Any chance you are thinking of taking your consultation techniques upward? 🙂
Still Optimistic ~
Thanks Still… I love the broad application of leadership principles. Individuals, teams, organizations, families, even nations benefit.
“Upward,” if that means politics, not a chance. Cheers
Most organizations die from within. Most organizations reveal this through subtle signs. I would love to have you go deeper into this
I loved this post because it resonates with a belief I’ve long held–that organizations are organic and so care and feeding are important. I wonder, though, how you’d react to a cultural change driven by this idea: “We used to get things done because of the people we knew. We can’t do that any more, we need to be process driven.” (It occurs otm me this is related to the ‘about the do’ comment above.)
I’m always fascinated about organisation culture and politics. This document touches a very sore point because in organisations today it’s more about who stands to gain and what incentives is each initiative / project likely to attrack hence individualistic behaviour. This kills team work and breeds toxic cultures