Battling underlying organisational forces

Last week I wrote about corporate high performance units. Today I write about their biggest challenge: Battling the underlying intangible forces that dictate an organisation’s ability to outperform others.

Every organisation is made up of people making decisions to fulfil a purpose. Simple isn’t it? If only it were so. As I have often written, decision making is complex and there are many ways our decision making is influenced. In fact, that is what your policies, processes and systems are doing, influencing people’s decision making.

Take a corporate procurement policy for example. It will place certain boundaries on your purchasing decisions such as directing you to purchase certain goods or services only from a contracted supplier. There will also be a process that you need to follow to procure items. And there is also likely to be a procurement system that has the corporate policy coded into it so that it knows and applies the rules based on who you are and what you are wishing to purchase.

Now, here is what the corporate procurement policy, process and system are battling:-

(Note: This is the same for any organisational function including operations, finance, risk, HR and IT.)

    • Politics – Every organisation has politics. The most important ones are the politics amongst the most senior people. If the corporate owner of the procurement policy has sufficient power, the policy is much more likely to be followed. If others have the power, the policy may be breached as often as it is followed. You will need to convince all the key players of the appropriateness of your policy to get the right “tone from the top”.


    • Culture – People generally like freedom to make their own decisions. The extent to which an organisation permits freedom of decision making, say in pursuit of greater agility, will also affect the level of compliance with the policy. Consequently, the policy needs to be designed to match the culture of the organisation. 


    • Capability – Finally, the other reason policies often fail is because you have not ensured staff are capable of following them. This could be as simple as online training, a framework on the intranet or a manual for more complex functions. Either way, don’t blame people for not complying with a policy they are not capable of following. 


To tackle all of these at once, build a tribe. Please click here for a recent blog on tribe building.