Here’s an odd organizational phenomenon that you’ll notice if you look for it: Organizations often don’t pay attention to important stuff until there’s some sort of crisis related to the aforementioned stuff. Any of the following sound familiar?
An organization will only call a strategic planning consultant after it’s obvious to 93.5% of the organization that they have nothing resembling a coherent and forward-thinking strategic plan.
An organization will only put together anything resembling a legit leadership development philosophy after realizing that for all their talk about “developing the future leaders” of the organization, they really haven’t done anything significant and tangible toward that end.
An organization will only start giving a flying flip about employee engagement after it becomes clear that a significant chunk of the humans that trudge through the employee entrance are increasingly miserable every day.
An organization will only give a rat’s derriere about employees being innovative after they sense that they’re not simply a bit behind the curve–they’re woefully behind the curve.
An organization will start using “culture” and/or “core values” in substantive ways only after they realize that employee morale has dipped so low that they’d view being laid-off as a welcome respite from the not-so-friendly confines of your building.
So what if we take a new strategy in our organizations? What if we decided to create a crisis mindset in our employees sometimes instead of waiting for actual crisis? What if we adopted a survival mindset on an ongoing basis rather than trying to turn it on only after the feces hits the fan?
Crisis has this way of sharpening our focus, doesn’t it? It has the effect of forcing us to spend time only on important things instead of the meaningless nonsense that we tend to get sucked into sometimes.
Think about an ER, for example. When a patient is lifted off the back of an ambulance and rushed to the operating table, there aren’t a lot of politics at that point, are there? Not a lot of turf wars. Not much stupid bickering between colleagues. And gossip? How could they? They don’t have time. To invest in any of those things would seem really, really dumb in light of the situation in which they find themselves.
So how ’bout it? Should we try to cultivate a crisis-mindset in our people so that we’ll rid ourselves of some of the negativity that’s sprung up? Perhaps trying to think of our organizations as organisms fighting for survival in a Darwinian-dog-eat-dog world would motivate us to traverse that gap between surviving and thriving. Maybe we’d spend less time whining and complaining and more time trying to make each other and our organization better. Maybe it would force employees who for too long have been allowed to be a cancer to the organization to do one of two things: either buck up, work hard, and be positive and awesome to their teammates; or pack up their horrible attitude and take it somewhere else where it would fit right in.
Why is it that only in a time of crisis will we focus on the important stuff and rid ourselves of dumb workplace nonsense? It’s a shame it has to come to that.