I love looking at HGTV shows. It’s interesting to watch the variety of homes people purchase and their excitement to describe how they’ll use the new space. In some cases, they want a “move
–in ready” place where they don’t have to do a thing. The layout and basic décor should already suit their style.
More unsettling though is when a friendly inspector with bad news interrupts their excitement over their new home. Close examination uncovers things like termites, asbestos, water or mold damage, cracks in the foundation, roof leakage, faulty electrical wiring, old plumbing… the list goes on.
The surface of the structure looked great to untrained eyes, but expert eyes identified serious infrastructure problems. Absent the inspection, recognition that it was crumbling from the inside would be delayed, but eventually, it comes to light as some component of the house fails.
For any home to avoid such a fate, it requires preventive maintenance for every aspect of the structure. The homeowners need to complete periodic inspections, fix problems promptly, understand environmental threats (high winds, tornadoes) and invest money to keep it up to code.
The same thing can happen in our organizations. On the surface, there may be great press reviews, robust stock prices
, and a strong appeal to customers. But in some cases, a peek underneath can reveal concerns about the infrastructure. Are the sales sustainable? What risk factors might impact consumer confidence or interrupt the supply chain? Are there concerns about product quality?
Examples of organizational infrastructure issues are easily identifiable these days. Twitter and Elon Musk are currently in a battle over the value of the company. This is in part because of a question about the real number of subscribers versus the number of fake accounts. Meanwhile, the stock price, revenues, employee morale and retention are down.
The now-defunct company Theranos promoted their widely hailed new technology for conducting blood tests. This was until we realized that the equipment didn’t really work. Now both founders are convicted of fraud. Also, Boeing’s 737 MAX aircraft was grounded after two planes crashed. This resulted in the death of over 345 people due to design and flight system issues.
Other instances of a compromised infrastructure are equally serious, yet not always as obvious. Each is unbelievably costly to stakeholders and the general public. Also, most can be avoided by proactively making decisions to anticipate and minimize risks, apply preventive maintenance and operate based on values of honesty and truth.
The same opportunities exist in the infrastructure of our leadership. Whether observing a team or a singular person, outsiders may see great results, positive connections with employees and stakeholders
, and collaborative activities.
But sometimes, when you peel back the cover you find toxic behaviors, missing core capabilities and poor team dynamics reveal a different story. Leaders may lack self-awareness of the impact of their behaviors. They may also prioritize their position and the perception of power that accompanies it. This focus on self over the team can result in higher attrition or disengagement, team members who lack certain capabilities, unnecessary conflict, poor performance and more.
Inspecting the expected
So how do you know if your organizations and leaders are really performing as they appear to be? You should inspect what you expect.
Like an audit process, some people fear inspections because of what they might find, or they think it’s micromanaging. But inspections are simply a feedback mechanism. They merely reflect and describe what’s going on. And to the extent that problems, gaps or issues exist, the quicker they’re identified, the quicker they can be remediated, repaired and corrected to minimize financial, reputational and operational risks for the organization and the leadership. Absent that, any infrastructure issues will only increase with time, at which point the negative impact will be greater.
A better perspective on inspections is that they’re a means to proactively embrace values, behaviors and processes that keep organizations and their leaders functioning at optimal levels. This creates a culture that affirms desired standards and such inspections become an opportunity to confirm these expectations.
Creating expectations for your organizational infrastructure
There are three keys to creating the right expectations.
- Establish standards for organizations and leaders based on specific values and behaviors, government and industry regulations and stakeholder needs.
- Develop leaders with the understanding, knowledge and skill sets to meet these standards through training, coaching, mentoring, facilitated learning and challenging assignments.
- Assess progress to the standards through regular audits, reports, metrics, 360 feedback processes, engagement surveys and observations.
The bottom line is that you will establish trust both internally and externally, that the organization is what it says it is, and that it will keep its brand promise to all stakeholders. Your organizational infrastructure will remain sound.
Interested in getting the most out of your team? Check out Managing Remotely: Say No to Micromanagement!