Has your company got OCD?

Is it almost impossible to get things done in your company? Is creativity treated like insurrection? Are there more forms, processes and policies than there are people?

If so, it sounds like your organisation is suffering from OCD, Obsessive Control Disorder.

At least now we can put a name to a set of organisational attributes that in the extreme can restrict, restrain and sometimes prove fatal to the growth prospects of an organisation.

Every organisation needs a degree of control, a way of ensuring consistency of production, quality and outputs; a methodology to optimise, reduce costs, and risk to the business. But every organisation also needs to create and innovate in order to stay ahead in the market.

The problem is that control is about risk avoidance and creativity is about risk taking. Control is about doing the same thing better; innovation is about doing something different. Control is about following the rules, innovation is about breaking them.

Both control and creativity are needed for an organisation to be successful. It is the job of the CEO to ensure there is a balance because too much creativity without control leads to chaos; too much control without creativity leads to obsolescence.

Steve Jobs managed this very well. He was both highly creative and a total control freak. This is not to say Jobs’ just did what he wanted. His board did not always react excitedly to his latest idea. The iPad was initially considered an overweight iPhone of limited use, and his idea to open Apple Stores and go into retail was openly mocked. In both these endeavours there was a distinct possibility of failure.

Often, It is when failure occurs that the balance between control and creativity are lost. The moment an attempt to innovate fails, and associated costs incurred, the voices yelling “out of control” can be heard all the way up to the board room. The knee-jerk response to failure is the elevation and primacy of control over creativity.

From that point on failure is eradicated from the business and everyone is happy upstairs. What the board doesn’t know is the method used to avoid failure or the long term cost to the business. The most successful mechanism to avoid failure is to avoid doing anything that might fail. The cost is zero innovation and potential obsolescence.

The solution is not to avoid attempts at innovation, but to use sufficient control in order that the risks and costs of failure are reduced rather than eliminated. This harnesses the power of innovation and control in a collaborative rather than adversarial way.

Without insight and intervention to ensure balance, organisations risk catching OCD and we all know what that means; much more paperwork…

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This entry was posted in Company Culture, Competing Values Framekwork, Innovation and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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