Why Checking your Organizational Health is Critical During the Pandemic
Henning Strubel, Senior Partner with The Boston Consulting Group, said in a recent article published in HR Technologist that “organizational complicatedness is the biggest barrier to high performance” and that smart simplicity, stakeholder management and organizational health are critical to peak performance. “Organizational Health is an organization’s ability to function effectively, to cope with change appropriately, and to grow from within which results in high performance.” I agree.
I’ve long been a fan of Patrick Lencioni and have read all eleven of his books. Lencioni says organizational health trumps everything. He notes that a successful organization has to be smart and healthy in order to reach peak performance. He also points out that most leaders “pay too much attention to the former [smarts] and not nearly enough to the latter [health]” According to Lencioni, a smart company is good at strategy, marketing, finance, operations, and technology. Meanwhile, a healthy company has minimal politics and confusion, high morale and productivity, and very low employee turnover. I concur not only with his definition of health, but also with his conviction in its importance.
The reason organizational health is so often overlooked is due to what Jim Collins calls “the quantitative bias”. It’s easier to look for answers around things we’ve measured for decades, what we have studied in college and business school. However, most organizations are full of smart people who know how to do their jobs. The most substantial barriers to their success is not incompetence, but rather a work environment riddled with politics and confusion. In these situations, the biggest opportunity for exponential improvement is to focus on building a culture of peak performance. Volumes have been written on the subject; I agree with most of them.
Agreeing with what countless authors and researchers have written about is one thing and doing something about it is another. Our own study has examined dozens of companies like QuikTrip, Southwest Airlines, Wegmans, Waste Connections, UPS, H-E-B, ONEOK, Nordstrom, Sewell Automotive Group, Sheetz, Pappas Brothers, Home Depot, Darden, Disney, Johnson & Johnson, Panera Bread, 3M, Costco, Harley-Davidson, GSD&M, L.L. Bean, just to name a few.
It’s important to note that some of the organization’s we’ve examined have been on and off our list of peak performance organizations. Peak performance in the past is no guarantee of peak performance in the present. Just like having regular physical examinations, regular checks on your organization’s cultural health are absolutely critical, both for organizations aspiring to reach peak performance and for peak performing organizations who want to maintain their achievements. Just like your physical health, taking your organizational health for granted can be fatal.
One of my best golf buddies came dangerously close to death because he didn’t think he need to get a colonoscopy. My friend’s wife harassed and harangued him until he was well past 50, when he finally acquiesced. When he woke up from the procedure, he found his wife and daughter sobbing hysterically. He had been diagnosed with stage four colon cancer. Two years and many painful chemo treatments later, he now appears to be cancer free and is a poster child for regular colonoscopies. He is lucky.
Now hear this: Your organizational health is every bit as fragile as your physical health. Peak performing culture, which constitutes the only sustainable competitive advantage of which we are aware, is incredibly perishable. Our study indicates there are nine principles at work in organizations that perform at the very top of their sectors. I recommend that you measure your cultural health against those principles. That’s what we do with our Organizational Health Index.
While a full description of our Organizational Health Index is beyond the scope of this paper, try answering these questions with: Strongly Agree, Agree, Neutral, Disagree or Strongly Disagree.
I encourage you to examine your answers and ask yourself, “is this a healthy way to work?”
The pandemic has changed us. It has changed our businesses and our lives forever. We’ll never be the same and there is no way around it. The question is not, “when will we go back to how it was before?” Rather, we must ask, “how will my organization emerge from this season of change even stronger than before?”
If you’re open to finding a straightforward suite of diagnostics that will help eliminate confusion and politics in your workplace, give us a call.