THE CRITERIA FOR A SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATION

Original publication: April 18th, 2021

Last Friday, I learned through a press release that the Head of GSK Vaccines Research & Development left the company to join another biotech. It reminded me of my 8 years of good and bad times there. That time was my driving force to further explore organizational models & systemic resonance, resistance and resilience. I am humbly sharing with you in this article what I believe are the criteria for a successful organization.

THE CRITERIA FOR A SUCCESSFUL ORGANIZATION

A COMPLICATED, COMPLEX AND CHAOTIC CONTEXT

Nowadays the world can be at the same time complicated, complex and chaotic.

COMPLICATED means that phenomena can be further dissected, simplified and monitored. Think of reproducibility and predictability popularized by Frederick Winslow TAYLOR (1856-1915) . That is the world of scientific management, procedures and Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

Since then, and most probably thanks to the internet, the world has become much more interconnected, evolving much faster and with less reproducibility and predictability, i.e. more COMPLEX. Think of a suicide terrorist attack that can be filmed, viewed millions times and inspire others terrorists all over the world.

Finally, the world can something be CHAOTIC, out of control and devastating, such a natural disaster or the increasing number of conflicts worldwide.

Being a successful organization implies therefore to deal with this CHALLENGING, HIGHLY INTERCONNECTED and FAST-CHANGING environment.

Employees are less and less engaged.

The 2017 Gallup World Poll (160 countries) revealed that only 15% employees are engaged. 85% are therefore unhappy at work.

In its 2020 Global Culture Report, the OC Tanner Institute reveals that

  • 42% rate their employee experience as positive or extremely positive,
  • 59% would leave their company for another one with similar job function and advantages,
  • 79% of employees are suffering from mild to severe burnout,
  • only 54% report that their leader knows what they do,
  • only 26% of employees feel their team works seamlessly together, etc.

For sure, every organization is different but the trend is there, whatever the sector of activity. Now, let’s look at the key success factors.

1. THE PERSONALITY OF THE LEADERS

In his book GOOD TO GREAT, former Stanford business professor Jim COLLINS and his team analyzed 11 companies with 15-year returns at least three times the general market.

Their goal was to identify key success differentiators when compared to other direct or indirect competitors.

They shows that all thriving companies were led by a leader displaying 2 main behaviors: humility and courage. These leaders are often personally likable and inspiring, avoid the limelight and tend to credit exterior forces or colleagues for their organization successes.

The lack of ego was therefore a critical factor to enable them to concentrate on one thing and one thing only: the success of their organization.

2. A JUST CAUSE

Secondly, the leaders must be able to articulate and share a JUST CAUSE, meaning that the employees believe that the cause is so just that they could sacrifice for it (i.e. their time, their money, etc.).

According to Simon SINEK, a cause has to pass these three criteria to be considered as just:

  • be RESILIENT (i.e. adapts and persists when times become more challenging or when critical changes happened),
  • be INCLUSIVE (your words and behavior are invitations to those who believe what you believe so they are willing to join you) and
  • be SERVICE-ORIENTED (the primary benefit goes to others than the contributors).

3. COMPANY CULTURE

Here come the EMPLOYEES and if/how the company value them. A thriving company needs to really put its people first (not only on hashtags). This means valuing diversity (of race, gender, … and ideas) through inclusion. In other words, this is not because there is misalignment with n-1 that they are wrong, incompetent or whatsoever. Sometimes disagreement can be highly beneficial.

Valuing your employees also means investing in their development and education on the long run. There are now plenty of ways for fun and much more efficient training.

E.g. Olivier DEPARDIEU and his company SINFONY help companies to replace Word and Powerpoint through videos).

Finally, cross-generational employees e.g. though mentoring and reverse mentoring generate valuable diversity, as long as inclusion is emphasized. Have a look at AXOLOT CONSULTING for more on sustainable employability.

Organization values

Critical also are the VALUES and the way to live them. I mean really live them on a daily basis and not as nice stickers on the walls. Integrity, honesty, trust, co-elevation, inclusion look like some good starts.

Then, it will be key to

  • define them for common understanding and
  • monitor how they are really embedded within the organization.

Have a look at this post should you be willing to revisit your current ones.

Quantified benefits of successful corporate cultures

According to the OC Tanner Institute, THRIVING CULTURES with great employee experiences are:

  • 6x more likely to have promoters on the Net Promoter Scale
  • 8x more likely to have high incidence of great work
  • 13x more likely to have highly engaged employees
  • 3x less likely to have layoffs
  • 2x more likely to have increased in revenue
  • 3x less likely to have employees experiencing moderate-to-severe burnout
  • 7x more likely to have employees innovating.

4. SYSTEMIC MANAGEMENT

I personally firmly believe that the best approach to deal with the context depicted above is systemic. This means looking at everything AS A WHOLE, how things INTERCONNECT and at which SPEED. To that aim, I am a big fan of the MODEL OF SYSTEMIC RESONANCE developed by Jérôme LEFEUVRE & Pierre AGNESE.

In very brief, the model includes 3 main pilars which are the core project of the organization (vision, meaning, strategy, plan), its people (relationships, support, willingness to collaborate) and its governance (authority as well as valoring and securing both the project and the employees).

By looking at all the intersections, we could assess 81 modalities and quantify to which extent the organization is in resonance (« harmony »), being able to resist to challenges and be resilient and chase opportunities in difficult times. Results are expresses in terms of percentage and of distribution (consensual, homogeneous, heterogenous or polarized).

The Model can be automatized (Diagnostic of Resonance Systemic of Organizations – DRSO) and is a highly effective tool to identify root causes and provide solutions. It is available through the PRUDENTIS community of experts I am part of and founded by Eric MAROIS. The DRSO can by the way be used with strategic suppliers and clients as well.

Quantified benefits of better integration

According to the 2020 Global Culture Report, when leaders connect people to purpose, accomplishment, and one another (i.e. think and behave systemic), there is

  • 250% greater odds an employee will be a promoter of its company
  • 405% greater odds an employee will highly rate their employee experience
  • 845% greater odds an employee will be engaged
  • 1,674% greater odds an employee will have a strong positive perception of leadership and
  • 56% reduction in burnout.

5. ORGANIZATIONAL ADAPTABILITY

General Stanley McCHRYSTAL took command of the Joint Special Operations Task Force in Iraq in 2003 to fight against Al Qaeda.

He then quickly realized that the conventional military tactics, despite their huge avantage in numbers, equipment and trainings, were not appropriate against Al Qaeda speed and flexibility.

As described in his inspiring book TEAM OF TEAMS, McCHRYSTAL and his team had therefore to quickly adapt, and to move from a MECE (Mutually Exclusive and Collectively Exhaustive) to a non-MECE structure.

Some of his success factors where as follows:

Improving information sharing and communication

He managed to include all key stakeholders such as SEALs, Rangers, Analysts and even agencies like CIA, NSA and so on in the daily Operations &Intelligence brief (scheduled 6 days a week precisely). It included til 7000 (!) people all around the world at the same time.

Strengthening trust

As some of these key players were sometimes in competition, or believing that they were much better than the others, improving trust between teams was critical. Actually trust within a team was found in many if not all teams.

Think of the the BUD/S (Basic Underrwater demolition/SEAL) training of Navy SEALs which primary purpose is not to select the highest performing individuals but those who will be the highly trustable for each other. To build between teams some of the fluency that traditionally exists within teams, he created liaison officer positions within each participating group.

The goal was two-fold: (i) get a better sense of how the war looked from the partners’ perspectives to enhance broader understanding of the fight (i.e. expand the picture), and (ii) contribute real value to partners’ operations (and hence develop trusting relationships).

The originality was to send high-performing individuals, whose their initial team will be missed.

At the end, McCHRYSTAL and his team were able to develop a shared consciousness which was decisive for their success by getting rid of silos.

6. KEY MANAGEMENT TOOLS

As the environment is evolving faster, it is critical to ensure appropriate and timely CONNECTION within and without the organization. Adequate IT tools for secured communication and archiving are therefore a must-have.

On top of the DRSO mentioned earlier, I also love the E-BLOOM approach for continuously listening to the teams and capturing valuable information, as long as decisions and actions follow accordingly.

Finally, I believe that investing in people also means giving them the tools for fruitful relationships, such as the KARPMAN Process Model and the 6 human needs I am also a big fan of.

Hope this will bring some insights. Feel free to share and/or comment below. I will be more than happy to further discuss if needed.

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