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You or your organization may be plateaued, if… (Part 6)

October 15, 2018 Leave a comment

You or your organization may be plateaued…

  1. If departments and people blame others for lack of organization’s results.

There’s a significant environmental difference between growing organizations and those that have plateaued or begun to decline. It just feels different…

When organizations are growing, there is an aggressiveness that marks its culture. People feel like winners and their confidence in those who lead is typically strong. Even in places where growth demands a great deal from the team, there is still a sense that it’s worth the effort because we are experiencing the results we want.

In a plateaued organization, such feelings have faded. People who aren’t seeing results are far more likely to become sensitive about the effort required of them. If victories don’t seem within reach, the passion for great effort diminishes. Ultimately, the frustration of working hard without the desired reward takes its toll…and we begin to look more for excuses to explain our struggle rather than seeking answers to bring about its end.

In such settings, where it’s not uncommon for folks to respond quickly with why something can’t be done, they are also more quick to draw tight boundaries around their own responsibilities. “Not my job” or “if marketing would just get its act together” or some similar refrain undercuts any real effort for change. If someone else can be blamed, then I’m not the one that needs to act.  

One of the most common blame games in a plateaued occurs between those who produce a product and those who sell it. Marketers want a better product, noting that the best ones practically sell themselves. We can’t sell products nobody wants! Production types defend their product and insist that marketing’s effort or investment is lacking. After all, if the product sells itself, why do we need a marketing department?

In the local church, the blame game can occur between departments, like when the children’s ministry blames parents for the declining interest of children, or the youth ministry blames the school system for competing with its slate of activities, or the church as a whole blames its culture for no longer supporting its place in the community…and so on. As long as someone else is to blame, then it doesn’t feel like it’s my responsibility to act.

Starting to feel familiar now?

I’ve found that a typical meeting in such places may start with a problem we need to solve, but the conversation will usually end up identifying the real problem as something we either aren’t able to solve or believe someone else has to solve. So we blame executive leadership for their lack of whatever we need or we blame entities not in the room for their failure to do their part. Such conversations often will stir unresolved frustrations or devolve into reminiscing about days when the organization was moving forward.

While the “what to do” conversation is still yet ahead, never forget that the principal cause of plateau is lost vision. When we take our eyes off of the priority destination or the desire that once drove us forward, it doesn’t take long to land here…in the flat and barren lands of plateau.

Your Organization May Be Plateaued If… (Part 5)

You or your organization may be plateaued…

  1. If you say “no” more easily than you say “yes.”

Organizations on the rise are always looking for ways to climb higher. Organizations that are plateaued think differently. Most will either look for ways to solidify the height they have climbed or be certain that no decision will precipitate a descent. This shift of thinking is at the very core of their plateaued reality.

One of the necessary elements of a growing organization is the management activity that must grow alongside it. This is the skeletal framework that provides for infrastructure and has the potential to allow continued growth. Unfortunately, when forward movement slows, management typically doesn’t. In fact, management processes can very quickly assume the driver’s seat and take the reins. And when this happens, the wrong people are now leading.

In such a place, “no” becomes an easier answer than “yes.” You see, managerial types are motivated by getting their worlds organized and under control. Management means “manage” and more change doesn’t respond to such an agenda. “Let’s solidify where we are…” becomes the internal mantra. So systems and processes lock in their places and are guarded by these friends who are most at ease when they can manage their loads.

Among the first evidences of this shift is a “protectionism” of what we have done to reach the current pinnacle. Rather than seeking new ways to climb higher, it’s the path we’ve walked that must be guarded, even if that path has reached its zenith. Now, guarding the values that have led us this far is important, but it is also the trap that locks us into existing levels. Without vision, values don’t serve us as well. They are intended as the guides for the climb, but can become our prison at the rest stop.

Only vision and the new people or new ideas it generates can drive us forward.

Having worked with many plateaued organizations, I can say from much experience that “no” is more common than “yes” when new approaches are offered. Why we can’t do something is clearer to managerial types. For them, it is much more difficult to figure out how to integrate new ideas and directions into the world they are trying to get under control. So…committees make decisions, additional organizational layers are added for supposed efficiency, and ultimately the path for a new idea becomes blocked with numerous boulders.

Ask yourself, “How easy is it for us to engage a new idea or a new direction?” Or maybe ask, “why don’t new ideas get implemented easily in our organization?” When other similar organizations are finding a path forward, we need to grapple with why our team can never find their way to similar choices. Usually, it’s because “no” or the reasons we can’t are right at our fingertips.