Leaders must be sensitized to look for causes of failure in performance, or conflict, in the right places. A failure, whether of an individual or a department, is not necessarily in the ability, motivations or intentions of an individual or the department. This is true of most conflicts too. Mostly, the fault lies in the design of system.

The cardinal principle of Organisational Development (OD) is – An employee is only as effective as the system allows him to be.

If the politician takes populist measures, isn’t it only to be expected in a system which is that his re-election is ensured only by taking populist measures?

If a bureaucrat does not take actions that may open up opportunities but instead takes only time tested ones, isn’t it natural in a system where his promotion would be seriously affected if the scheme fails but is unlikely to be accelerated if it succeeds?

If an army officer does not confront the system even when he sees the need, wouldn’t you too would do the same if the system is such that if you as much as take one wrong step, it is curtains for all times?

The same applies for most positions in the corporate world, except some where the system is specifically designed such that risk-takers are rewarded, even if the scheme falls apart.

It is all how you set up the system.

As an OD consultant, I’ve laughed enough when CEOs bring me the problem of the Sales team not cooperating with the Quality team, or even the Marketing team at time. In most cases, the system is such that the salesperson is to get immediate benefits (performance linked bonus etc) in case of a sale. The Quality team is rewarded for ensuring no complaints on the design/manufacture side. Marketing team is looking for long term market capture.

All three are looking to achieve their objectives. Why blame them to do what you too will do, were you in their shoes?

So, where does this take us?

It takes us to the understanding that many conflicts and shortfall in performance can be taken off merely be re-design of the structure and system of incentives. Also, that all conflicts are not avoidable. Some are indeed helpful.

The greatest insight is that the judge must learn to see why person or a department, does what he does? Till you can justify his actions given his position, you are not well placed to take corrective action. Leaders have to learn to see things from perspective of the other party. It is a difficult skills but it can be acquired.

In our practice, we offer a specific course on it.

Leadership as Psychological Science – The core technology of leadership is advice giving – but such that people take it! Not easy, but can be done. Rather than being manipulative, managers have to learn to ‘crack the code’ with other people. Path breaking technique of leadership-

  • Understand why a person does what he does.
  • The alignment model of empowerment.
  • Matching the advice to the person.
  • Breakthrough learning of behaviour.

More here. https://innovatorsandleaders.com/.

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