When Someone Benefits From the Problem
One of the many head-scratchers in organizational life is when a known problem never gets addressed.
We all know the drill. Everyone agrees that a significant problem exists. A special task force is asked to invest the time and resources to propose a solution to said problem. Once completed, everyone agrees this is a dandy proposal.
The natural next step is to implement the solution to solve or manage the issue. Yet, nothing happens. The most powerful leaders sit on their hands and fail to enact the proposed strategy. What gives?
Any time a well-dissected problem and an elegant solution remain untouched by an organization, team, or leader, there is one known cause. Someone important benefits from the problem. In other words, an influential party prefers not to address the issue so they can maintain their influence or control over some aspect of the problem.
Consider an organization with a river of media that carries various messages across the enterprise. Having a handful of mediums, such as hotlines, bulletin boards, intranet exchanges, town halls, electronic newsletters, and chat rooms sounds like a smart idea — until you learn that the organization in question has 86 different channels to disseminate information. Because the organization has too many outlets, team members don’t know where to turn to learn the most essential messages.
Experts inside and outside the company propose streamlining the ever-growing number of mediums and suggest a set of specific channels for different messages. Going from 86 to 25 mediums will not only add to organizational clarity but will also save tons of money. Everyone on the senior leadership team agrees this is a savvy plan and should be implemented immediately.
Yet, nothing happens.
No one is empowered to initiate the project. Attempts to gain final approval get stalled and stonewalled. The plan sits in waiting for a project bus that never arrives.
Why would this be?
Someone on the leadership team benefits from having 86 mediums. Perhaps they can dictate what messages get sent across the enterprise more easily when no one person or team can drive a more efficient process.
Or maybe the lack of clarity created by so many mediums helps to hide a metric or trend embarrassing to their leadership. Who knows? But the fact remains that someone influential benefits from not solving the problem.
Sadly, the problem remains unaddressed to the bewilderment of those who invested time in the solution, and to anyone else who can see the problem remains untouched.
Knowing this won’t make anyone feel better. That an important problem remains unattended is wrong. Understanding the power of self-interest, however, might make the situation less of a head-scratcher.
In too many organizations, powerful leaders too often engage in self-interested behavior to the detriment of the organization. Don’t get caught up in the hijinks. Consider what is happening and move on to those problems others honestly want to address. You’ll be happier for it.