by Edward Prewitt and Meg M. Moore

Develop a systems model for organizational alignment

Apr 01, 20042 mins
Business IT Alignment

The change management initiative that has changed nothing. The strategic plan that’s a nonstarter. These organizational ills and many others share a diagnosis: They are all aspects of being stuck. That’s according to a forthcoming book, Unstuck: A Tool for Yourself, Your Team and Your World (Portfolio, April 2004), by strategy consultant Keith Yamashita and Sandra Spataro, a professor at the Yale School of Management.

Being stuck is a term rarely applied to the business world, but it alludes to the authors’ holistic view of organizations. They argue that companies are organic systems; therefore, “organizations that are out of balance become stuck.” Getting any one part unstuck requires bringing all the parts of an organization into balance.

This systems model consists of six parts, with purpose at the center and five other elements?strategy, culture, people and interaction, metrics and rewards, and structure and process?contributing equally to that purpose.

The great majority of stuckness results from seven primary causes, the authors say, called the “Serious Seven.”

1. Overwhelmed: A sense of being without a rudder, of having too much work and no idea of where to start. The cause: The structure and process element of the system are missing.

2. Directionless: When a high level of activity isn’t correlated with results and people don’t know how their work connects with the bigger picture. The cause: The element of strategy is either missing or the organization’s strategy is the wrong one.

3. Hopeless: A lack of passion among employees about their work and a prevalence of individual agendas. The cause: The organization’s purpose is anemic or isn’t apparent.

4. Battle-torn: Internal fighting rather than a focus on the real task at hand. It’s indicated by real decisions being made in hallways after official meetings. The cause: Problems with people and their interactions.

5. Worthless: Job targets are ambiguous and expectations don’t seem to match priorities. The cause: Misaligned metrics and rewards.

6. Alone: Team members fail to work together. The cause: Lack of a cohesive culture.

7. Exhausted: Burned-out employees exhibiting resentment, lack of interest and even mutiny. The cause: All six elements of the system are present but are not working together.

The book presents dozens of innovative ideas for becoming unstuck. Call it chiropractic for the workplace.