Organisational health: are you getting your five a day?

Amy Copeland
May 17, 2018

Organisational health: are you getting your five a day?

Does anyone else struggle as much as I do to be healthy? To ensure you get those five a day in? To reduce sugar and fat intake, to drink enough water, do enough exercise, get enough sleep…and the list goes on. It can be hard to be healthy, right? We are constantly told that if we don’t do these things, our bodies could fail us, we could be faced with future issues, and worst case, lead us to an early demise.

The same applies to organisations.

Organisations need to be healthy, and if they aren’t, they can fail. Fail their customers, their employees and themselves. Organisations won’t struggle to succeed because their ideas are rubbish or they don’t have enough talented people, they’ll struggle because they aren’t healthy. They aren’t looking after themselves or their customers.

So what does being healthy actually mean?

I would describe a healthy organisation as one with an environment that is:

  • …Free of internal politics
  • …Has a low turnover of talent
  • …Customer centric
  • …Clear on their purpose
  • …Not working in silos
  • …Has an aligned leadership team
  • …is transparent

So how do we, as organisations, ensure we are doing what we can to be as healthy as possible? So that we can serve our customers and strive for the purpose in which we established ourselves in the first place. Below I am going to outline what I believe the key ‘five a day’ are that all organisations should have that will help work towards achieving the aforementioned healthy environment.

  1. Purpose

Without purpose, we are merely performing seemingly meaningless tasks to no aim. And without purpose, how do we find motivation? Without motivation, how do we do a good job? And if we don’t do a good job, how does an organisation succeed? And so on…

Most senior leaders would say their organisation does have purpose, or perhaps you would call it your vision, and I would agree that they probably do. The key, however, is to ensure that purpose is felt by every single individual working within that organisation, from the CEO to the finance director to interns. Not only do organisations need to ensure purpose is known and felt, they have the responsibility to guide their teams to know how to act on it. How do they know if their day-to-day work is in line with that purpose?

  1. Strategy and priorities

(OK, so this is two things but I needed to squeeze them in!)

Creating a strong and tangible strategy, and outlining the organisational priorities are how you guide your teams in knowing where they should focus. It is how they’re able to know how they play a part in contributing towards the purpose of the organisation. Again most organisations would say they have a strategy, but how transparent is that strategy? And how aligned is it to your purpose?

Your strategy should derive from your purpose, and your priorities should then derive from your strategy. Those prioritise should feed into every team for them to disseminate into objectives that can be measured and tied right back up to the organisation’s purpose.

  1. Measurement

So you’ve defined your purpose, strategy and priorities, but how do you know if you’re achieving/have achieved them? In my experience measurement can be overlooked. People talk about objectives and goals, but what are the hard measures to know if they have been achieved and more so, been successful.

  1. Team Design

We know there are certain things teams need to be successful. A successful team doesn’t happen by chance, or we certainly shouldn’t leave it to chance to see whether they succeed or not. To help teams navigate through the 5 stages of team development (forming, storming, norming, performing, adjourning), we need to help them define tools to equip them in being the best they can be.

Like organisations, teams need to define their own micro-operating system. How do they get work done together? What do they expect of one another? What tools and routines are needed to make work ‘work’ for them? What’s their priority? How will they be measured? All these need defining and acknowledged at a team level for them to be armed in dealing with life as a team.

Setting aside time when new teams are setup to work create their operating system, and having regular time together to check into as the team develops is invaluable, and should be prioritised equal to getting work done.

  1. Alignment

There is nothing more confusing than being told conflicting things in a given situation. Whether that be medical advice, car mechanic advice or what outfit looks best! I believe humans at their core crave simplicity and clarity and this transcends to the workplace too.

Leadership teams need to be aligned and consistent in their communication in the workplace. They also need to be aligned in their action. If leaders say one thing but do another, you can be sure that it’s the action that will be noticed more and replicated, especially if it’s at odds with what is being verbally communicated. Leaders need to practise what they preach.

Patrick Lencioni talks fantastically on organisational health as a whole in his book The Advantage, but specifically about the importance of a cohesive leadership team. Similarly to parenting advice, a cohesive, aligned ‘front’ leading the way ensures that there is clarity and consistency. As leaders, commit to backing one another up, even if you may disagree, disagree away from the front-line. Showing a lack of alignment at leadership level can cause employees to play leaders off one another – much like the split-up parent scenario – ‘but Mum said I could…’

Remove any cause for cracks to appear by sophisticating your leadership team decision making processes, and committing to living and breathing the decision made outside the boardroom, even if you were in opposition of the decision made.

So there’s a swift overview of my ‘five a day’ for keeping your organisation healthy. Hopefully they provide food for thought (no pun intended) and some ideas for where to focus if you feel your organisation could benefit from being a little healthier.

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If you feel your organisation could benefit from being a little healthier, whether that be in helping a team/s to define their own operating system to work better together, or to work with a leadership team to help build trust and cohesiveness, please contact us at contact@thinkds.org to discuss how we could support through building a tailored plan of workshops and coaching programmes.