Enlightened Conflict

organizational exhaustion

May 12th, 2017

exhausted organization puppy tie

 

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“I prefer physical exhaustion over mental fatigue any day.”

—-

Clotilde Hesme

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“There is a construct in computer programming called ‘the infinite loop’ which enables a computer to do what no other physical machine can do – to operate in perpetuity without tiring.

 

In the same way it doesn’t know exhaustion, it doesn’t know when it’s wrong and it can keep doing the wrong thing over and over without tiring.”

 

—–

John Maeda

 

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So.

 

ideas within organizationLeading an organization is not like running a race … well … at least it is not like running a sprint.

 

Okay.

I am being stupid.

 

It’s not like running a race.

Nothing like it.

 

It is more like managing the health of a body in which you do want some exercise and you do want some healthy eating and you do want to insure proper amount of sleep.

Suggesting you want to run a business like you are in some marathon is silly and misguided.

 

It is just as misguided to think about an organization like a machine with gears and moving parts and keeping it well-oiled and full of gas and shit like that.

 

I say all of that to talk about organizational exhaustion.

 

If you stay away from silly metaphors about what an organization is, or is not, simplistically you are trying to insure your organization is putting forth a proper amount of effort against the efforts you want it, and need it, to be working against. This is a daily, weekly, monthly and annual leadership objective.

 

Different leaders have different styles working against this objective but, simplistically, that is the objective.

 

Now.

HOW you meet this objective typically takes some experience.

What do I mean?

 

I assume most leaders do not inherently know exactly how to do this … pacing an organization takes some experience and some practice, some mistakes and some successes and then you zero in on how to do it well <or just keep getting better at it>.

 

Using me as an example … I liked a hard charging group when I got to a eat sleep work organizational exhaustionteam/group management level. And I, personally, would be ecstatic if I didn’t have to sleep and I could go 24/7.

And, in the beginning, that was my vision for my groups.

 

By the way … in general … good intentions … bad idea.

 

But what that meant was that I probably learned this lesson, pacing and applying effort appropriately, too slowly <and I most likely will have a bunch of past team members chuckling painfully in agreement>. Going hard charging all the time is not sustainable — you juts have a constantly exhausted group.

Effective hard charging doesn’t mean 24/7 it means picking your moments and going hard.

 

That said… in desiring to have hard charging organizations there were certainly some lessons anyone would learn to limit needless organizational exhaustion.

Here are a couple I learned along the way:

 

  • I had to be consistent.

 

It doesn’t get discussed often enough but expectations go both ways. As a leader setting clear expectations is certainly expected <and I will mention that in my second learning> but it really helps an organization if you establish clearly what people can expect of you – behaviorally and attitudinally.

 

Words surely matter.

Setting expectations surely matter.

Actions surely matter.

But consistency matters above all. No leader is perfect and no leader will make the perfect decisions, let alone good decisions, all the time. Therefore it becomes incredibly important to just be consistent. Your organization, and specifically people, will become better accustomed to where you will be really really good and where you may be slightly off <and they will naturally accommodate both>.

 

In other words … your consistency actually offers your employees some direction for what they should do. Your best people will assess situations and know where you are consistently most likely right on, know the things you consistently overlook and know where you consistently leave some spaces for them to ‘do their thing.’

 

  • Keep some strong threads of consistency.

 

Threads of consistency permit an organization to not have to think about some things.

There were some really simple tactical things that I could control.

 

  • What do you mean <clarity in articulation>
  • Where are we going <set a visible North Star>
  • What do you want me to do <pragmatic expectations>

 

organize fish

If you could keep these three things solid and not have people milling about talking amongst themselves on these three questions you were staying ahead of the game.

 

It permits your organization to progress and not be stagnant. It permits your organization  to not invest unnecessary energy against those things and apply energy against doing shit.

 

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t have to do these things.

 

Of course, a leader doesn’t do these things at their own peril.

The peril? Exhaustion. frustration. Waste energy.

 

Not doing these things has an expense to an organization and mostly that is defined by two things – time & energy. I would point out that both of those things are not infinite resources to an organization. I point t out because if they are finite than you better have them available to you when you actually need them.

And that is why I chose to not use an organization as a race metaphor at the beginning but rather an organization as a body metaphor.

 

Look.

 

As a leader of larger organization you can hide your misjudgments or poor decisions in a variety of creative ways … mostly by shifting resources from one group to another or have another department assume some different responsibilities or by shifting some people into the work gaps or to buttress the best people who are flagging with some support.

 

But that is also not sustainable.

 

organizational exhaustion battery

The organization gets exhausted doing all that maneuvering … in addition … they get exhausted by you doing that.

 

I will admit that I got better at this as I moved up in responsibility. And, I will admit, I partially got better at it simply because I had more moving parts, departments and groups to manage. That is because I loved working 24/7 and I thrived with the energy of solving problems and … well … just energy. In a larger organization there is always something going on, some project or problem or initiative somewhere within an organization that needs attention or needs a little ‘push.’ This naturally permitted me to let one part of the organization ‘rest’ while another part of the organization ‘ran.’

 

Oh.

Think about that a second or two if you will.

 

What I just suggested is that an organization as a well-rounded circle or the classical myth of a ‘well rounded person’ is … well … simply a myth. In fact … the idea of it creates a false narrative in our heads.  As an organization learns and thinks and gains experience it does not expand smoothly but, rather, raggedly. Day after day, despite the fact it may feel like business is a grind or it may even feel too fast <or too slow>  an organization is constantly running toward some thought and experience … or … leaping from danger or something  disagreeable or some problem or some success and … well … suffice it to say it is anything but balanced.

And it is certainly not creating any smooth well rounded growth.

 

My main point?

 

exhausted all possibilities tried everythingThere is no such thing as a well-rounded person and there is no such thing as a well rounded organization. A leader may certainly aspire to create a well-rounded organization but, even at your best, the organization at any given point in time is some shape other than a circle.

The good news is that this means organizations also naturally get excited to explore the edged forays into interesting things and, in parallel, get snagged on the ragged edges of unexplored thoughts or even second guesses with regard to the lack of smoothness in what is happening in departments, groups and efforts … as well as thoughts and growth.

 

Yes.

I will point out that this is why an organization can feel slightly uncomfortable on occasion as employees, departments and groups wrestle with this discomfort, as well as dealing with the ragged edges constantly poking at everyone, but I will also point out that is why the things I mentioned earlier become even more important –the consistency, the clarity and the lack of chaos.

I will also point out that his kind of ‘uncomfortable’ is okay. Ito a leader it is actually a sign that things are going okay and the organization is not stagnant <and good leaders know how to point out good non-stagnancy to calm uncomfortable>.

 

All that said.

 

I can unequivocally state that no organization is successful when needlessly exhausted. They can be tired at the end of the day but exhaustion is a symptom not of ‘a good day’s work’ but rather unnecessary mental stress trying to get things going, understand what to do and what to say and kibitzing over why it is so hard to get what seems like normal shit done.

 

When an organization is running well … whether the 350 million, 350 or the 35 organizational exhaustion balancing workrecognize it … there are many days when the 1, the leader, leaves the office exhausted.

And the one is exhausted despite the fact that 349,999,900 people, 341 people or 34 people went to sleep that day feeling pretty good about their day and their needs & wants & hopes took one step forward that day … and they are a good tired … not needlessly exhausted.

 

Oh.

Despite the fact the one went to bed exhausted that one will arise the next day fresh because the organization is ready to go again the next day … and not organizationally exhausted.

 

I will end by pointing out that an exhausted group, an exhausted department or an exhausted organization is the sign of poor leadership. And, most importantly, it is a precursor to signs of inefficiencies and declines in measured productivity.

 

perspective and hunters and business

September 15th, 2015

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hunting Mooseheads

“Until the lion learns how to write, every story will glorify the hunter.”

African proverb

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Ok.

 

 

When I say hunters I mean the people who will do whatever they feel they need to do to get what they want.

doing life destroy the world

 

We all know some of these people.

 

 

Uhm.

 

 

We all know some of these people who do not recognize that they are one of those people.

 

 

Particularly in business.

 

 

They aren’t psychopaths and they aren’t the kind of assholes that are raging assholes … these are just the assholes oblivious to their assholedness.

 

 

There are a variety of ways they justify their hunting but suffice it to say far and away the number one way is “end justifies the means.”

 

 

“But I <or we> made the numbers.”

“We won.”

“We finished.”

 

 

 

 

 

All the while ignoring the carnage left behind.

 

 

The carnage can be lost employees, pissed off employees, tired <emotionally and physically> employees, angry peers and disappointed or abused partners.

 

 

Let me explain <and what the ‘hunter’ says>.

 

 

asshole bad manager thank you asshole

<lost employees>

 

They couldn’t keep up or they were not good enough <good they are gone … we weed out those who can’t keep up>.

 

 

 

<pissed off employees>

 

You can’t always pamper people to get them across the finish line <they like me because they know it is all done with ‘tough love’>.

 

 

 

<tired employees>

 

 

I pushed them beyond what they thought they could do <they won’t be angry once they see how I helped them realize their potential>.

 

 

<peers angry>

 

 

The other managers don’t recognize what it takes to get it done <my project was more important and they won’t be angry once they see the result and how the team responded …or … I am showing them how it should be done>.

 

 

 

<partners angry>

 

 

They have good intentions but I need to keep them focused on our priorities and objectives and needs <they work for us and need us more than we need them>.

 

 

Look.

 

These are the hunters <assholes in the office> who focus on the kill. We all have them or have encountered them.

 

They unequivocally state …

 

“We came in within budget.”

 

“We finished on time.”

 

“We made the numbers <or exceeded … which is most likely what the hunters say>.”

 

 

Uhm.

 

 

At what cost?

 

 

Ok.

 

Simplistically <part 1> … these are  the bad leaders.

 

 

Simplistically <part 2> … good leaders get the story from the lions and not just the hunters.

 

 
Regardless.

 

 

Many hunters in business are simply assholes … and do not even know it because all they see is they are hunters and they have a lion to show for their efforts.

 

 

Yes.

 

Success does matter.

 

No.

 

I am not suggesting we shouldn’t value ‘the kill’ or even ‘ability to effectively stalk the prey’ in business.

 

 

Yes.

 

I do believe how you kill or stalk matters.

 

 

Now.

 

Let me discuss the ‘how you do it’ matters aspect.

 

 

Having had this conversation several times with hunter like people <assholes> in some office in some city as employees ran to & fro around us … these are the people who quote Sun Tzu and military people all the time.

 

 

They ignore honor and integrity and respect for the event and an honorable opponent and solely speak of the honor of the win and respect for the victory <or kill>.

 

 

I struggle with these people because as hunters they lose sight of the balance or bigger picture.

 

 

Seeking to win, or make the kill, with honor & integrity for the event offers such satisfaction that one who only hunts for the kill sometimes can’t seem to understand.

 

I sometimes think they fear the event and simply go for the kill thinking that honoring the event means increasing the likelihood they lose the kill or lose some success.

 

 

I admit.

 

 

This is a difficult discussion to have with hunters. All they hear is ‘inefficiency’ or even ‘being too nice’ or ‘soft’ … yet, in reality, nowhere in there is nice, or inefficient or softness … it is respect.capitalism personal gain integrity

 

Respect for the hunt itself and finding satisfaction in making the kill, gaining success, in an honorable way.

 

 

In addition.

 

 

Gaining success in an honorable way, the right way in my eyes, not only creates satisfaction for me but … you don’t lose employees <or … the ones you lose are the cold blooded hunters>, your employees are less pissed off, your employees may be physically tired but are rarely mentally tired, your peers have a tendency to look at you & your team with respect and partners want to work with you.

 

 

Sigh.

 

 

But hunters only tell their stories … and far too often are glorified in today’s business world.

Enlightened Conflict