The news reports stories that convey the daily results of personal and organizational choices. The results show choices people make for themselves or for a corporation or an institution. When the choices produce bad or disappointing results it gets lots of attention as the media, new and old, dissect the underlying assumptions that led to the decision which produced the bad result.
Most bad decisions are the result of assumptions made in a vacuum created by not considering the impact of a single decision on the whole. And our natural inclination is to wonder what were they thinking.
Assumptions are something many corporations are built on. The way organizations have been designed and the work people do has been copied or emerged (without much thought) as people attempt to get a result following old assumptions. Work is managed in a similar way. Break apart each function (in design) and optimize each piece (in management). This thought process runs itself all the way down to the individual. If we just have everyone giving 150 percent or if just hired smarter people (whatever that means) then the company would be successful. The ability to analyze and optimize the pieces rarely (or never) optimizes the whole. Managers are good at analysis (ability to break things down), but not in synthesis. Thus the whole suffers at the cost of trying to optimize each part. Get it?
Results Start With a Set of Assumptions
Targets, rewards, incentives, performance appraisals and ranking are not going to drive profit into your organization. These approaches drive profit out of the organization by all the time and technology invested. And let’s not forget about the frustrated employees and wake of destruction these promote. Intrinsic motivation is not created by false external incentives to produce more in a system that prohibits collective contribution.
Frederick Herzberg said, “If you want people to do a better job, give them a better job to do.” The real issue that needs to be addressed is the poor design and management of work we have in our organizations. This requires new thinking in our approach to this thing we call work.
People already know intrinsically these approaches are wrong, but leaders seem to think people need to be told and taught what to do. The reality is leaders need to hear what people need in order for them to do what is natural and rewarding to their personal and collective system of values. This is a values-based approach that requires inputs from the hearts and minds of all the stakeholders the organization intends on serving.
In a world of open and transparent information available to anyone and everyone the assumptions you make that influence your organizations choices are available for everyone to examine. If your assumptions are not grounded in a values-based guidance system then your results will show your poor choices.
In the 21st Century results are created by a difference set of assumptions than those used in the 20th century. Start planning for results by making choices based on assumptions that matter. What matters is enabling people to exercise their individual human capital collectively for a purpose they can believe in. Start with this assumption and your choices will change as will your results.
Smarter Companies change their assumptions by identifying and measuring what matters in today’s marketplace, the intangibles.
Next we’ll look at old assumption that are driving bad decisions in today’s marketplace.