When 1+1+1 = less than 3

Todd Ordal //July 22, 2011//

When 1+1+1 = less than 3

Todd Ordal //July 22, 2011//

A colleague recently lamented the fact that he served on a board that was chock full of talented members, but the board was dysfunctional and didn’t achieve what it should. I believe this often applies to management teams as well. Here are four reasons that 1+1+1 can sometimes equal something much less than three:

1. Unaligned priorities. Do you remember playing tug-of-war as a kid? If the teams were evenly matched, neither side could progress. Organizations that have no agreement about objectives won’t progress either. If agreement exists around the objective, then there’s a fighting chance for progress, and the arguments are about “how” vs. “what.” For priorities to align in an organization, there must be a clear vision or you’ll have talented people using energy in opposite directions. I once worked with a firm whose chief technology officer – in the absence of a clear vision and strategy at his firm – wasted millions of dollars and destroyed his credibility by working on things that no one cared about.

2. No reinforcing mechanisms. If there’s a clear direction, there must be clear communication and reinforcing mechanisms to keep everyone focused on the prize. Reinforcing mechanisms need to clearly reward correct behavior and discourage incorrect behavior. They should also tap into people’s rational self-interest.

3. Weak strategic leadership. Leaders must know how to develop consensus, hold people accountable and execute on strategy. They’re the keepers of the vision and strategy. They must be strong – not bombastic and overly controlling – and they must be correct more often than not. Sometimes strong leaders take organizations in the wrong direction, but they admit mistakes and course correct.

4. Lack of teamwork. A strong leader helps foster healthy teamwork. Healthy conflict, trust, commitment and accountability must exist. If your organization’s vision and strategy are clear and reinforced, you’ll naturally attract people who are attached to the vision and eliminate those who aren’t interested. This makes fostering teamwork much easier. Some of the skills and behaviors required for successful teamwork do not come naturally and specific intervention is required.

Talent is necessary, but not sufficient, for success. An organization full of talented people who are working at cross purposes will achieve nothing. Only when there’s talent, true alignment, teamwork and good strategy can 1+1+1 = something much greater than 3!

Is your organization leveraging talent or sucking up energy?
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