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Understanding and Removing Organizational Pain

Call it what it is–it is pain!

So what is organizational pain? It is an emotional pain that drives employees crazy when broken or nonexistent work processes make their jobs difficult and frustrating. Organizational pain causes:

  • Anxiety in the workplace (dread of work activity)
  • Negative impact on the company’s daily operations and its capital projects (cost, schedule, quality, safety, risk, and morale)
  • Addition of extra time to work on tasks because they know it “always takes longer to get done”

In many troubled companies, management normally has little understanding of whether organizational pain exists and does not grasp the magnitude of that pain. Why? Management is busy with executive actions and fighting fires every day. They are simply focused on daily work. And, most importantly, they are not on the shop floor.

To understand organizational pain, management needs to be aware of some essential elements.

First, qualitative improvement is needed to remove the pain. Think quality of life, but go a step further and think quality of work life.

When employees participate in qualitative improvements in their daily work, it gives them a feeling of empowerment and drives their commitment because they are the ones who know the pain points and how to relieve the pain.

When the pain is removed, there are quantitative benefits because when people take positive action, their work metrics move in a positive direction.

So, why are employees not simply taking a leadership role and removing the pain? The answer is complex. Employees are normally not empowered to make changes to policies, procedures, and other corporate governance. They are not allowed to put daily work on hold and think about improvements.

In simple terms, employees cannot make changes from the bottom-up. Change must come from the top-down.

The CEO’s office must approve and launch an Organizational Change Management (OCM) project downward into the organization.

An OCM project transforms the company from old, broken business/work processes to new or improved processes that incorporate industry best practices and the appropriate digital solutions to drive efficiency and effectiveness. The output of the OCM project is positively transformed corporate governance.

The OCM project is executed by organizing teams that connect in workshops and other activities to understand the pain. Then they determine fixes for the pain, implement the fixes, and improve them via a well-planned continuous improvement strategy.

The lower down that employees are on the organization chart, the better their understanding of the organization’s pain.

With the appropriate executive and mid-level leadership, the empowered employees will actively and willingly participate in relieving the pain.

The following graphic is a helpful tool for understanding and managing organizational pain.

Companies can use this graphic in a workshop to help them understand where they stand on the pain scale. It guides them on how to remove the pain and govern in a way so it does not return. The workshop outlines the elements of their current stage, what is done in the transition stage, and what the future stage looks like.

Most importantly, the graphic highlights the organizational pitfalls, how to guard against them, and how to keep them from harming the journey or taking the company backward. Using this graphic as a guide is critical for an organizational transformation project.

Let’s summarize and look at your path forward.

In this article, I describe organizational pain that is mainly driven by (primary) policies, procedures, and other corporate governance. There are subsets of organizational pain and secondary elements include personalities and individual behavior.

Therefore, if a company fixes its policies, procedures, and other corporate governance to the maximum possible performance, it can still be hampered by difficult personalities and their unacceptable behavior.

So, do not confuse the primary and the secondary. Fix the primary because it is the foundation on which the company is built. Then the company’s leadership needs to work with human resources and various management levels to fix the secondary problem by dealing with those personalities and their behaviors. If counseling and coaching fail, termination might be the only answer.

Is there organizational pain in your company? If so, act on it decisively. Yes, there is a cost (expense) associated with fixing it. However, in another article, I ask the reader not to resist the payback of an OCM project that also implements digital solutions that can lead a company to operational excellence.

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