From Jim Collins to The Oz Principle, best-selling books attract leaders with their resonating philosophy. Folding their methodology into the organization puts a checkmark in the “repaired” box on the CEO’s culture to-do list.
We’d like to take aim at starry-eyed devotion to plug-and-play solutions to business problems.
Take the Oz Principle and its cult-like following. Problems are bundled under “lack of accountability”. Accusatory labels are pinned on people who may be wrestling with bad top-down processes, poor communication or lack of resources. Often silent and resentful over an air of preached values that gets thinner at the top, they are told that company goals are everyone’s goals…yet are keenly aware of the power disparity in goal-setting, rewards and punishment that are doled out by a party of few. In our opinion, the Oz Principle is a goldmine of bias for leaders who are blind to their own or other failings.
It’s hard to ignore the halo around anything written by Jim Collins. But Dr. Bret Simmons points to the flawed approach in taking data that starts with Effect and works backwards to the Cause as confirmation of an argument. He says, and we agree, that failure to hypothesize a Cause first and follow it over time to examine its actual Effect is Good to Great’s defect. Editors saw dollar signs in the book’s premise and many leaders are still drinking the Kool-Aid.
We believe great gems of knowledge can be found when giving thought-leadership from these and other sources their due.
But we also believe that CEOs are in that position for a reason. The very best possess human engagement know-how that starts by getting good information from people.
Culture has been described as that which occupies the white space on a canvas after a plan has been written.
No best seller takes the place of a CEO sitting with a group of people inside the organization armed with three simple but very telling, powerful questions asked in an open-ended way:
- Do you believe in our mission?
- Do we have the capabilities to support it?
- Do you like your fellow employees?
Leaders with human engagement know-how work through responses using a filter of common-sense, without going blindly forth with a method that is impossibly transferrable to the masses.
Priceless insights tell the CEO about the culture he/she has created and what must be done to shape it on the plan’s canvas.
In the end, the goal of the company is to improve earnings. The goal of employees is to participate in a community that is rewarding to them. Real solutions to balancing these needs are seldom found in scholarly writing.