What We Need is a Healthy Crisis!

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Some years ago I read a book by John Kotter that was about how organisations get themselves into and out of trouble.  Recently I read another book by Patrick Lencioni called “Silos and Politics” which carried similar message – some successful organisations become “unfocussed” and “complacent” to the extent that internal silos and petty politics come to occupy more time than improvement – the politics and silos become a self-sustaining name-shame-blame-game.  John Kotter showed that the path out of this unhealthy state is to realise that organisational survival is at risk – and this provides a compelling reason to align efforts – usually in a dramatic and desperate exercise in organisational survival.  The term Kotter used was “burning platform” which is somewhat prophetic given the ecological, economic and political catastrophe that is currently unfolding in the Gulf of Mexico.  Patrick Lencioni takes a different tack on the same problem – and concludes that organisational silos are the result of the attitudes that filter down from the boardroom. He advocates looking for the “symptoms” and if observed in an organisation then it is a good time to engineer a crisis to focus attention on delivering one collective, qualitative, and audacious goal – something that the whole organisation will need to collaborate to achieve and one that provides a “win” for everyone.  So, before you get sucked into an unhealthy life-and-death crisis look for the early symptoms that indicate the need to create a healthy crisis: one that will require just as much passion and creativity to resolve and which will lead to a sustainable breakthrough improvement!