Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Ferrari, The Race, The Pit-Stop

Would you purchase an expensive high-performance race car, only to skimp on service? Knowing the engine needs servicing would you ignore that, only to keep pressing the paddle harder and harder in the hopes of still winning the race?

Metaphorically speaking, isn't this what so many businesses are doing these days?

So many have drastically reduced their people development programs, for example. Given so much uncertainty, fear has taken over the workplace, causing disengagement and paralysis. While these very people may stay for the time being, putting in their time, I can't help but wonder about the max exodus that is likely to take place as soon as the market turns.

Furthermore, too frequently I see companies hire the best talent for their money. These talented individuals come on board with lots of initial excitement and desire to give it their all. Yet as time goes on, they start to become disengaged. Performance and productivity declines and net cost of doing business goes up. In my frequent visits to organizations, in private conversations, I hear so many stories where otherwise good people just aren't giving their best, intentionally in many cases. They are sick and tired and just plain frustrated. They are just putting in the time 'till they can get out. The workplace has become toxic and no one wins.

Going back to our race car, no matter how well made the engine, overtime gunk builds up and tune-ups become a must to continue to deliver high-performance. As in the engine, within business teams, gunk builds up in the form of misunderstandings, miscommunication, hurt feelings, fear, not feeling heard-to name just a few, leading to energy blockages and eventually disengagement and poor performance--like running a Ferrari really hard without the engine being tuned. The leader keeps pushing the pedal yet wonders why it isn't running like it used, but doesn't seem to have the time to pull into the pitt-stop.

In my own experience, as a mechanic fine-tunes an engine, I have found that within business teams that tune-up occurs through imporved communication and workshops that facilitate such dialogue, where team members come together to better understand themselves and each other. As that happens and communication improves through understanding, reengagement takes place and productivity and profits improve.

Yet what puzzles me is how many businesses ignore this important tune-up. They continue to spend huge sums on payroll, yet won't make the relatively minor investment to help their teams better understand each other, better communicate and better leverage each other for greater individual and joint success. They view such work as nice to do and touchy felly stuff. Yet it this very element that leads to performance.

I wish I knew the secret to getting businesses to invest in such tune-ups. I have been wracking my brains but can't seem to come up with clear answers. Any insights that you can offer?

No comments: