Your Organization May Be Plateaued If… (Part 7)

You or your organization may be plateaued if…

  1. If you lead primarily through processes and policies.

Organizations that are driving forward with great success tend to do so because they are principally driven by vision and by the new relationships that are forged through that vision. Along the way, various organizational decisions must be made, processes must be set in place and policies must be established to help the organization run effectively at expanding levels.

But something occurs in the life-cycle of every organization. Vision fades…

Sometimes it’s the successes that encourage complacency or the feeling that the largest mountains have been scaled. But more often an organization’s management needs and administrative practices tend to outgrow its ongoing leadership focus. Information processes and policy manuals expand, usually at the expense of the entrepreneurial flexibility of earlier days.

As teams enlarge, it makes sense that we hire more process managers than program leaders. But soon the room is dominated by those who are better at managing our current levels than growing us to new ones. And when decision-making shifts to process and policy people, the big picture is often compromised.

Some years ago, many organizations recognized their own drift and tried flattening their organizations. This “re-engineering” sought to eliminate a lot of the managerial layers that had been added through the years, narrowing the gap between the “frontlines” and the leaders who made the decisions that propelled them. Some organizations succeeded in these efforts while others simply eliminated jobs and watched their organizations shrink to the size of their scaled-down teams.

The question a leader must ask is, “who (or what) is running our organization?”

Is the vision, the “why” that explains our existence, the primary factor in decision-making or are we being led by individual department or program agendas? Has efficiency replaced effectiveness as our priority?

Perhaps a quick glance around the conference room will help us. When we look at who is at the leadership table, do we see leaders of people or leaders of processes (normally called “managers”)? How far down the organizational ladder will we find leaders? At what level in our organizational structure do managers dominate? You see, an organization that will continue to grow needs to grow leaders along the way. A single leader and a team of helpers may have been sufficient in the early years of our organization, but if those at the top haven’t included other leaders at other levels to help drive the organization, then those who master process and policy will fill the decision-making conference room.

In a church setting, I had a staff member who was hard-working and provided much-needed organization to our efforts. But I quickly learned that this person was principally-driven to master her current load, organizing every process to its maximum efficiency. Wow! I needed that kind of help…but not in the decision-making efforts of leading that church. A person who can effectively organize the status quo is motivated to maintain that status quo. To such friends, growth is a threat, not a dream.

Make no mistake, processes and policies are much-needed and they can open the way for new levels of growth for any organization. But these efforts and their masters cannot be leading an organization or plateau is virtually guaranteed. Vision and the new relationships it brings must be in the driver’s seat. Programs and policies must serve these priorities, not drive them.

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