Provocative Propositions

In the hyperactive and challenging world in which we all live, it is becoming harder and harder for business leaders to find time to read, reflect and gain insight from the many valuable sources at our disposal.

In "Provocative Propositions", The Beacon Group attempts to fill that void by offering our opinion, often rather pointed, on a wide array of issues we believe are relevant to leading a modern organization.

The articles are catalogued into 12 categories so you can quickly and easily find a topic of particular interest. We then offer three easy steps under the heading "In Our Opinion" to help business leaders take action on the key themes.

Simply click on the category and read away.

Banishing Politics
It's Saturday morning.

You're standing on the sidelines of a soccer field.

The game is being played by 4 year-olds. What do you see?

One ball, with all 16 kids chasing it.

The swarm is ferocious. Everyone wants the ball. Everyone is trying to push each other out of the way to get to the ball.

You smile to yourself and think it's cute.

After a while, you start to think about it again and realize there are actually supposed to be two distinct teams on the field, but the reality is that there are, in fact, 16 teams on the field. Everyone is in it for themselves; uncoordinated, unfocused and undisciplined - even if it means competing against their own team mates.

It's Monday morning.

You're sitting in the Boardroom with the CEO of your organization. There are 16 department heads around the table - everyone is trying to get the CEO's attention.

That's when it hits you.

There is supposed to be 1 team in the boardroom - not 16.

Welcome to little league.

Welcome to silos, politics and turf wars.

The Disease of Dis- ease

Almost all organizations suffer from some sort of infighting. In some cases blatant and in other cases more sophisticated and less obvious to detect on the surface. The type of superficial congeniality that Jack Welch talks about as the "biggest dirty little secret in business today".

The root cause is usually the same. A certain type of dis-ease that people have with each other based on either lack of trust or lack of clarity or - god forbid, both!

While the key is to ensure alignment, synergy, and collaboration across an entire organization, this is often much harder to do than it should be. The walls of the silos can be thick and the playing field strewn with hidden land mines that make the journey dangerous.

The ultimate responsibility for dismantling the silos and the ultimate success of an organization rests not on the shoulders of the CEO, but squarely on the shoulders of the senior team who must make a tough choice. That choice is to deal with bad behaviour themselves or let it taint them all, ultimately allowing the weakest link in the chain to drag them down.

Remember, truly talented players only want to play with other truly talented players. The talented players will not condone the type of silo-based politics and turf wars that the weak and the timid seem to thrive on.

If you have silos, there is a good chance you have the wrong team. The talented folks may have left a long time ago.

Absolute Clarity

On any given day, in any great organization, you should be able to ask every single employee the same simple question and get the same clear answer - What is our company's goal?

If the organization is truly great, the response you get from one employee will be the same - word for word - as the response of every other employee.

It's about absolute clarity. This definitive clarity ensures that employees throughout the organization are aligned, understand the overall goal of the organization and their role in it.

View from the Top

Here comes the tricky part - what if the senior team doesn't know the goal?

What if the organization is ready for the big game, but there is no game plan?

In that case, the best bet is to tell the truth. Tell is straight. Don't duck, weave and hide. Let them know there isn't a single, clearly defined goal right now, but that it is the intention of the senior executives to determine this goal.

Don't pretend and don't roll out a weak set of goals and a limp mission that will not only fail to rally and align the troops, but will undermine your credibility.

A Word on Wording

Luckily, the goal and the mission are not dependent on fancy, wordy vocabulary. If there is no time to craft a poetic phrase, then settle for a simple, easy to understand goal. Keep in mind, your job is to create clarity and alignment first and then you can focus on inspiring and motivating your employees.

Rolling Goals

In "Silos, Politics and Turf Wars", author Patrick Lencioni states that in order to be successful, organizations must have a series of goals. Not only must the goals be time sensitive, there must be definitive measures to determine whether or not the goals have been achieved. The best organizations are those that have the "next" goal ready to be rolled out the instant one is achieved

In Our Opinion
The Beacon Group's Keys to Breaking Down Silos from the Top

Find a "Them" - A short-term fix to infighting, is to find an external enemy to fight. That way, the focus and competition can be directed away from the organization, on to a competitor.

Rise and Shine - Your organizational goal cannot be a number. To ensure that the goal is met, you have to find a way of motivating employees around that goal so they come to work every morning raring to go.

Love it or Leave it - Silos start at the top of the organization. If there isn't alignment at the top of the organization, how can it be achieved at lower levels? Everyone must do their part to achieve the goal, or move on.

Repeat, Repeat, Repeat - If your goal falls victim to a case of broken telephone and gets altered in several different ways, it will lose all credibility. Be sure to constantly repeat the goal whenever possible - word for word.

Our Monthly Rant
Quitting on the Coach

In professional sports, if a team is performing poorly, the players are often said to have "quit on the coach". Somehow, the players have lost respect for their coach, or do not agree with a certain aspect of the coaching style. This sort of "rejection" is passive, but it does, at least, send a message to the coach.

In business, this sort of thing rarely happens and, if it does, it rarely gets noticed by the "coach's" boss.

The question then becomes, why doesn't the team inform the coach (or executive) of their displeasure. The executive should ultimately realize that it is their mandate to drive the performance of their team, and would therefore be held accountable in the event that there is poor performance. The executive should constantly ask for feedback. If a team doesn't have a clear sense of direction, the coach should then do something about it - thereby eliminating the infighting, factions, and the silos.
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