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Insanity. Doing the same thing over and over, but expecting a different result.

Like pulling a door that won’t budge. Then pulling again and again, harder and harder. Wondering why the door is broken. When really, it just needed a push.

This is what I’m seeing organizations do. On repeat. We see the same problems crop up and we continue to implement the same solutions that didn’t work last time. And we wonder why not.

When we truly activate our teams, we get to the root cause of what’s holding us back. And this diagnostic accuracy delivers real change. Here are a few of the situations I see on repeat:

1. People are burned out.

Burnout has been in the conversation now for years.

Leaders see it. Acknowledge it. And want to solve it.

When I speak with teams, they hold up their overwhelm. Their lack of clarity, their 5,000 priorities, their lack of resources, their constant busyness.

And when I ask what their leaders are doing to help them, they still talk about quarterly mental health days; or offers of virtual yoga classes; meditation sessions. Or Employee Assistance Programs (EAPs) providing counseling services or fitness benefits.

Listen, all of these are great. But they’re cures for a problem we should be solving. Preventing rather than treating.

The problem is these things are sexy. They’re buzzy and they get attention.

And the stuff companies should be doing? Less sexy. Things like:

  • Really, ruthlessly prioritizing…and holding their leaders accountable to taking something off the list when something is added.
  • Demanding better meeting hygiene — ensuring meetings only happen with a clear objective, the absolute right attendees, and an accountability for action.
  • Matching resources with expectations. I keep hearing of teams of 3 people and some really dated technology being tasked with delivering the work of 40 people using robots. Leaders have to be sense-checking what they’re asking of teams and tools before setting those expectations.

When we’re able to make headway on these — and many other contributors to burnout — we see the tide turn. With or without the yoga.

2. The organization structure isn’t working.

This one’s a biggie. Because here’s what happens over and over and over.

Something’s not working. Projects aren’t being delivered well or innovation isn’t happening or decisions aren’t being made. Or a million other things.

And way too often a senior leader decides it’s time for a reorg. Because they assume the problem is reporting lines or formal decision rights or how teams intersect or overlap on an org chart.

But here’s the truth: Organization problems are almost never caused by structure. Reorg-ing is painful, confusing, expensive, and exhausting. And it should be done very rarely and thoughtfully.

We too often change structure to try and solve problems of people, process, and resource.

Like if something’s not being delivered, before you assume the solution is to change where teams report and who’s the “boss,” consider…

  • Do we have the right people with the right skill, capability, and bandwidth on the case?
  • Do we have basic processes — like approvals, decision-making, problem-resolution — that are serving our goals?
  • Do we have the right tools, access, and knowledge management available?

Org structure, for some reason, often seems the most obvious choice. But if structure isn’t the underlying problem (and really, it almost never is), then it’s not going to solve what’s really going on.

Check your blind spots. Ask your teams what holds them back. And be willing to make the real changes.

3. People aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do.

You know. Like coaching. Or giving feedback. Or collaborating, innovating, making decisions efficiently. All the things.

Not uncommon for one — or many — of these issues to pop up.

And commonly, when they do, senior leaders tend to default to a training solution.

People aren’t coaching, innovating, or making good decisions? Well, we just need to teach them how.

Listen — I do leadership development for a living. I believe in it as a solution. But only to the right problem. Leadership development is amazing at building capability and confidence. At creating space for practice and accountability.

But those aren’t always the reasons people aren’t doing the thing. Too often I hang in organizations where people aren’t innovating not because they don’t know how, but because they have no time. Or freedom to experiment and maybe even fail. Or someone shoots down every new idea immediately.

Sometimes great decisions aren’t getting mad because frontline leaders aren’t empowered to make them. They have to ask permission for everything, which creates bottlenecks.

Sometimes leaders aren’t coaching because they themselves are being micromanaged, and so they simply do the same with their own teams.

Organizations love training programs because if they’re effective they can be a bit of a magic bullet.

But they don’t solve organization design or behavior problems.

So, if something isn’t happening as it should, start by asking. Why not? And what changes could we make to drive change?

Feeling ready to solve your organization’s woes the right what? Give us a call and we’ll help you see which doors just need a push.