In any organization, especially in growing ones, executives face multiple challenges, from designing a consistent, flexible strategy and arranging efficient processes to ensuring the right cash flow. Furthermore, creating a conducive corporate environment, that is, “inner work life,” plays an integral role in companies’ prosperity since it propels steady employees’ professional development. In this regard, business leaders habitually fall into four traps that destroy subordinates’ productivity, creativity, and commitment and meaning to their work. This paper aims at discussing these four main traps that the senior management is guilty of and gives relevant rationales.
Companies usually formulate and trumpet their central mission and purpose at every corner to inspire and motivate their workers. Nevertheless, many managers are frequently inclined to demonstrate the opposite via their actions, decisions, and words. An excellent example can be Karpenter Corporation suffering from a fast degradation in its workers’ inner work lives due to the blunders made by new top management. In particular, Karpenter’s top administration shared a prospect of launching entrepreneurial cross-functional business teams that theoretically would function autonomously by possessing its portion of the company’s resources to sustain the development of its innovative products.
However, the company actually focused on implementing a cost savings policy among their teams consistently, thereby undercutting the new-product innovation strategy at the root. In this respect, Karpenter’s engineer states that their work predominantly began targeting “removing pennies from the standard cost of an item,” which ultimately deteriorated product quality and competitiveness. As a result, this employee’s work had been reduced to the execution of an insipid, disengaging routine task, which, in essence, did not have any primary meaning. The mediocrity pitfall is prevalent among many organizations and is principally connected with the unwillingness of top management to venture. It is much easier and safer to be inside the comfort zone and remain ordinary.
Strategic ‘Attention Deficit Disorder’
Most leaders regularly examine the external business situation to learn about their competitors, their plans, and global tendencies and economic processes, which helps take appropriate strategic steps. Herewith, many managers tend to commence and reject their initiatives too frequently, especially when it comes to strategy and tactics, which can be characterized as attention deficit disorder (ADD). They pay inadequate attention and effort to test whether these ideas are working. Moreover, they insufficiently ground their strategic decisions to their employees, thereby downplaying their significance.
For instance, Karpenter’s ADD appeared to derive from its leaders’ short attention to detail and superfluous strive to master up-to-date management trends. At every quarterly meeting, corporate executives juggled and changed priorities without determining them as principal and long-term. Moreover, ADD was sometimes related to continuous differences and clashes between CEOs regarding main strategic directions. The lack or even absence of a definite and mutual decision on particular issues typically results in the drain of valuable time, energy, and enthusiasm, especially when developing new market strategies and plans.
Corporate Keystone Kops
The third trap is primarily associated with miscoordination, and its name relates to the figures of popular series of silent-film comedies, namely Keystone Kops. The incompetence and excessive fussiness of these fictional police officers usually led to ridiculous behavior, hectic work, and zero results. In this context, some managers are scantily aware of the everyday processes and affairs of their organizations and even contribute to the corporate cacophony through their actions or inaction. This adverse phenomenon is particularly typical for different departments of organizations when they decide on launching a specific product. For example, solutions coming from R&D can contradict the vision of the marketing division, which causes severe friction and hamper moving forward. When coordination is absent in an organization, people cease believing in the sense of purpose and that they can manufacture high-quality products.
Mistaken “Big, Hairy, Audacious Goals”
Every successful business starts from clearly determined, ambitious, and far-reaching goals. In this regard, authoritative managers Jim Collins and Jerry Porras urge companies to establish a “big, hairy, audacious goal” (BHAG) that can ignite robust emotional employees responses. Such aims inject meaning into the work and connect an organization’s vision with people’s values. However, despite their grandeur, the management sometimes cultivates goals that lack relevance and significance for subordinates. Employees perceive them as too extreme, untimely, and unattainable.
In particular, while setting a BHAG, some companies are seduced by projects that pursue producing innovative bestsellers that should bring tremendous profits. In practice, such an objective cannot make the work meaningful since it is disconnected from workday activities and reality overall. In addition, seldom do similar goals comprise articulate milestones and landmarks that would guide workers and display visible results. Finally, an exceptional and aggressive focus on earnings severs bonds with workers’ aspirations, who strive to give genuine value to their consumers.
In summary, the paper discussed four main traps that the senior management is guilty of, giving related rationales. Mediocrity signals imply the inconsistency of executives’ actions and words to the core mission and purpose of companies. Strategic ‘attention deficit disorder’ means precipitating shifts while choosing particular priorities and initiatives without testing and examining them adequately. Corporate Keystone Kops is associated with miscoordination primarily created by managers’ lacking awareness of day-to-day processes and affairs that employees are involved in. The last trap results from setting super extreme, irrelevant, and unrealistic goals that bring little meaning for workers. Finally, to sidestep these pitfalls, CEOs should pay sufficient attention to appropriate communication with subordinates, workflow innovation, and a regular comprehensive review of employees’ performance and organizations’ workflows and outcomes.