Patients can alert the doctor to their nagging symptoms, or the physician simply notices issues or learns of them through tests.
This discipline is followed in order to better pin-point a disorder or disease in hopes of ultimately controlling or getting rid of the problem. Similarly, the risk manager through queries or interviews, also learns of organizational symptoms. They too diagnose signs through corporate results, surveys or performance data.
To a doctor, some of the more distressing symptoms are high fever, chest pains, breathing difficulty, bumps and lumps. But what symptoms should a risk manager look out for in organizations? What disorder can they ascribe it to?
There are some symptoms that should never be ignored in any organization. They can indicate a serious organizational disease that if not cured or mitigated promptly could lead to an unpleasant demise and even death.
As a corporate "physician" my diagnosis begins by asking my patient: Is it clear how decisions are made within the organization? Is the decision mechanism free of confusion around authorities and ultimate decision power? If the answer is "not really", I continue. Does the organization tend to operate in silos? Are operating units serving their own parochial interests apart from other business units? If the answer is "somewhat," I continue. Are employees feeling overly stretched? Are disciplined people leaving the organization? If the answer is "some," I continue. Is the organizational funding strategy well understood by leaders? If the last answer is "not at all," alarms and sirens start to sound in my head. I know what these nasty symptoms are translating to! The prognosis may be grim if not dealt with immediately. My patient is suffering from the potentially deadly and high-risk disease called Mission Confusion.
This is the disease where an organization's mission, strategy or delivery mechanism is unclear or unknown to the organization. Even though mission statements may be posted on the walls of the company, nobody truly understands what they mean and working towards them is still quite a mystery. Few have a crystal clear visualization of what the core mission is for the organization or how they intend to deliver to it.
When stricken with Mission Confusion, the patient scrambles, carrying its mission through what looks like trial-and-error and eroding precious resources. With the lack of mission clarity, it is hard to have a clean decision process that sets priorities for the organization. It is impossible to know what is important to pursue and what to stop doing.
Mission Confusion is exhausting. Through confusion and false starts, good people will start feeling as though they are being set up for failure. They suffer from a lack of confidence. Eventually they leave, leaving behind those who now just look out for their individual interests.
Treatment of Mission Confusion should be immediate but takes time. Treatment starts with a full review of a patient's core competency coupled with the articulation a simple, extremely clear concept of what their business is and what they are passionate about.
JOANNA MAKOMASKI is an internationally recognized enterprise risk management executive with experience in energy, health care, and most recently in the sporting event sectors. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
April 12, 2013
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