I read a lot about toxic workers in service organizations.  How to manage them, analyze them, fire them, etc., but I don’t read much about the toxic systems that they have to work in.  These are the organizations full of command and control thinkers.  The ones that believe in:

  • separate decision making from the work
  • scientific management theory
  • performance appraisals
  • targets, rewards and incentives
  • productivity goals

These are all things I have talked about before and the damage they can do.  The 95/5 Rule is a good catch-up blog.

What astonishes me is how few (if any) address the fundamental issues that create the toxic culture.  Most people that join an organization have a positive outlook hoping that this organization will be better than the last organization they just left.  Within a few weeks or months they are beaten down like the rest of them.  They can’t make decisions about their own work, they can’t help the customer if it gets in the way of targets, incentives, goals, etc. and if they disagree with the boss or the way something is done they can’t speak out or it will come up at their next performance appraisal.  I get fired up just thinking about it.  The sad part is that command and control thinking creates the toxic culture.

There is a better way and it does not involve coaching or psychoanalysis of the individual.  Here we go:

  • Put decision-making back with the work.  People will come to work with their brains and engage, instead of checking them at the door.  Innovation and collaboration will result.
  •  Use measures that matter to the customer.  Not the internal measures that the customer doesn’t care about, the ones that really matter to the customer and purpose.  Workers can use these brains you just released to innovate and provide better service . . . at a lower cost.
  • Get rid of all that other productivity and performance appraisal crap that focuses on the individual. How much time is eaten away from your managers to evaluate “performance” when they could be working to improve the system that decides 95% of the performance of the organization anyway.  This alone will save you money and in some cases a lot of it, it’s all waste.

Systems thinking comes with a price . . . you have to change your thinking.  The command and control way of thinking has run its course.  Change management leadership means changing the way you think.  You will liberate your culture and your system.

Tripp Babbitt is a speaker, blogger and consultant to service industry (private and public).  He is focused on exposing the problems of command and control thinking and the termination of bad service through application of new thinking . . . systems thinking.  Download free Understanding Your Organization as a System and gain knowledge of systems thinking or contact us about our intervention services at [email protected].  Reach him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TriBabbitt.