“Organizational culture is the ‘water’ in the fishbowl. If the water is clean, nourishing, energising, the fish will thrive and if the water is toxic, the fish will die, leaving the infrastructure value-less” (Ranjan de Silva, Sensei International)

Organisational health – the status of operating efficiently and effectively with a “happy team” of positive and focused employees – not only provides a seedbed for new ideas, innovation and creativity, but also establishes the necessary foundation for the development of brand reputation, product reach and sustainability in the long run. Company agility, when faced with customer demands and preferences, is greatly enhanced when staff feel they are part of a caring, but winning, team. A “can do” attitude gets generated when management and employees work together on projects and each employee’s contribution is valued. Solutions, not problems, become central to the effectiveness quest and employees generate ideas, knowing that they will get recognised for their creativity. A dismantled bureaucracy, flatter structures and management involvement all develop the environment for interdependency and collaboration. The attitude of “co-creation” defines team behaviour and employees look for ways to involve and use all their colleagues, especially their individual giftedness. The organisation is healthy, vibrant and productive. It’s firing on all cylinders.

This is unfortunately not the case with most firms and other non-profit organisations. Firing on all cylinders is but a dream for them. Onerous bureaucracy plagues and slows down processes. Insensitivity and control from leadership structures leaves staff feeling worthless and uncared for. Customers get frustrated with inflexibility and poor service. Work, for everyone, has become a burden that all have to endure.

Some of the symptoms/causes of these dysfunctional environments include the following:

  • The expectation that processes will deliver results– processes are indeed necessary for the fluidity of a production environment, but on their own and particularly without an inclusive and caring human environment, they are hollow.
  • Lack of “presence” from leadership– manager distance, where feelings are not expressed in constructive ways, leaves employees in the dark, with no real grasp of how well (or not) they are doing.
  • Bureaucratic reporting and authority structures– unnecessary paper approvals or onerous reporting structures usually uncover trust deficiencies within the organisation. These, in turn, dishearten one’s best employees and frustrate the rest of the staff.
  • An over-reliance on sales and marketing departments to keep products moving– these functions need to be backed up with great after-sales service, brand reputation and solid relationships with customers if sales are going to gain momentum.
  • A performance management system that is not aligned with organisational priorities– measuring arbitrary outputs, especially when they don’t truly contribute to the organisational production drivers, leads to frustration.

Achieving organisational health, where the employees are “firing on all cylinders”, requires an environment where the following is present:

  • The extension of trust to all employees by leaders of integrity– leadership care and sincere empowerment (giving people responsibility) together create an environment where staff feel they can contribute their best.
  • A performance strategy designed to keep the company ahead of its competitors– this should bring together three performance areas: customer service (developing a high perceived value and responsiveness), quality improvement (reducing defects and mistakes while increasing productivity through improved process and system controls) and organisational development (building leadership skills and sustaining cultural change).
  • Communication methodology that includes ongoing feedback opportunities– transparency and consistency in all communication channels should be encouraged. The same requires good listening skills from those in leadership.
  • Accountability across all levels– the expectation that everyone should be able to account for effort, energy, decisions and focus.

“Firing on all cylinders” within the business environment is founded essentially on the foundation of organisational health. Achieving this state of wellness requires strategic intent and execution from those in leadership.

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