One of the major obstacles to change and growth in an organization is something we call “Organizational Inertia.” In physics, inertia is: the tendency of matter to remain at rest if at rest, or, if moving, to keep moving in the same direction, unless affected by some outside force.” In common language this means that people – especially in bureaucratic systems – will repeat old behavior and defend the status quo even when they are not getting the results they want.
One way to create change, then, is to exert an “outside force” on the existing system. In other words, change the workspace and you’ll change the way people behave in that space.
Seven Ways You Can Turn Your Organization Upside Down and Backwards to create new perspective:
- Begin every meeting with a “good news report” instead of a “what’s broken” report. You’ll shift the mood of the room into a more creative, optimistic space, which will lead to better problem-solving and faster-decision-making.
- Shift primary responsibility for employee assessment from managers to their team members. I speak from ten years of personal experience when I promise you that (once people receive basic training in the process) the quality and depth of performance feedback will INCREASE when individuals shift from passive receivers to active partners in their performance appraisal process.
- Add an Upward Appraisal to your feedback system. If you’re really serious about improving leadership in your organization, add an element of upward feedback to encourage frank conversation about teamwork (even entry-level folks have great ideas about what their manager could be doing to support them better!)
- Write “contracts” with project team members, versus impose deliverables.. Goals created in a conversation of mutual commitment are more likely to energize AND get met, on time, than goals imposed from “on high” without negotiation.
- Engage team members in the process of selecting new members of the team, or even (gasp) their new boss. When people are invested in the hiring decision, they will view that person’s success in a different – and more positive — way.
- Ask people what they think BEFORE you make your decision. Yep, that’s what I said. Hold as a possibility that you DON’T know everything!
- Hold (at least some of) your meetings standing up. Notice how the energy of a meeting shifts and becomes more efficient when the physical props change.
ACTION ITEM: Hold this question in front of you for the next month: How might I challenge the status quo, shift the environment, or create new ways for people to work together?
Remember, Leadership is not about a title: Anyone can be a leader who deliberately seeks ways to challenge organizational inertia, and strives to help others step up and take a more active and engaged role in their work.