If you have ever driven in fog, you know how tricky it can be. It blankets an area often with little to no notice and reduces the visibility to only a few feet in front of you. An oncoming car or deer could cross your path, and there would be little time to respond. Even the most experienced driver can begin to feel anxious, frustrated, and/or confused.
In many ways, an organization can be overcome by a blanket of fog too. Sometimes it happens gradually over time, and conversely, it can happen suddenly with little warning. Examples of events that can cast a dense fog over even the strongest organization include a merger or acquisition, new product/service line, unexpected resignation, loss of a significant client, claim of harassment, lack of leadership, retirement of a key leader, or a breach of data. Being able to recognize this type of situation as it approaches is critical. Awareness and preparedness provide you with the opportunity to take a time out and then move towards clearer skies in the future.
What happens internally to an organization in a fog? A troubling trifecta of confusion, anxiety, and frustration that can derail profitability and growth.
A State of Confusion
A lack of purpose makes a significant impact on your ability to move forward. It is critical for employees to clearly understand the direction of the company, even in troubled waters. Without clarity, employees are left confused and doing what they have always done, which may be the very thing holding the company back. I challenge you to think about the behaviors that currently exist in your organization and whether they align with the company’s purpose. Are your employees working towards their individual goals versus working towards the global goals at the company level? Are your employees performing at their best, or are they not even aware of their full potential? Chaos, even if considered organized, is still chaos. When a company embraces the same purpose, real transformation occurs.
We’ve hit on the importance of purpose, but with no plan, your company’s mission doesn’t have a map to follow. With no map to follow, employees become anxious, uncertain and even fearful, which leads to disengagement and potentially seeking employment elsewhere. To avoid this snowball effect, provide your employees with a clear strategic direction and plan. Being in the know and feeling included in the success of your organization helps build trust in the leadership of the company. Does your strategic plan begin to collect dust shortly after it is defined? If your company is like many others, implementation and execution falls short; leaving employees unsure about the future of the company and the direction it is headed. Knowing how to keep your strategic plan living and breathing isn’t easy, but it is a critical element to your future success.
When Did Things Get So Frustrating?
Technology has forced change on every single business, and its disruption will only continue at a faster and faster pace. Keeping up with the latest tech is a full-time job, but when employees aren’t provided the right tools or, worse, provided tools they don’t understand how to use, they become frustrated. Whether it’s an upgrade or implementing a new solution, the processes and procedures used by employees are impacted. At the end of the day, employees want to be successful, and today a big part of that includes access to the right tools and the proper training. Without it, your team members can feel defeated and view work in a much more negative light. Retaining current employees and recruiting new ones becomes increasingly challenging when your organization is in reactive mode when it comes to disruption. An anticipatory approach sets you up to be the disruptor instead of the disrupted.
Pulling the Pieces Together
When a company is misaligned, confusion, anxiousness, and frustration permeate the workforce. This has both a short- and long-term impact that some firms can’t survive. There is no magic wand to make it all better immediately; however, when designed properly the architecture of your organization can not only alleviate this discomfort but position you for future success and establish and sustain competitive advantage (Nadler, D et al. “Organizational Architecture: Designs for Changing Organizations“).