Thursday, September 26, 2013

Champion Monsters

How often does organisations grow champion monsters within their ranks who eventually might be the biggest hurdle for the growth of the organisation? This is a crucial question many leaders fail to address in a timely manner. Repercussions could be far reaching and non reversible that any subsequent changes could be painful for the entire organisation. 

To elaborate this point let me take Information Technology domain in a normal brick and mortar organisation. When the organisation is at a relatively primitive stage, "John" joins the company as the sole IT resource person. Being very high in IQ and ambitious John goes about automating the organisation. Results are both encouraging and extremely useful. The company continues to expand and grow and John too grows within the ranks of the organisation and now he becomes a Department Head with his own team of IT professionals. John continues to add value with more and more meaningful contributions to the business functions bringing IT to a level of a business driver. He continues to grow in stature within the organisation. He creates a fortress around himself and rather than becoming a facilitator who unleashes business potential through relevant information sharing he becomes the judge and jury on whats relevant and necessary. Given his clout in the organisation many people give up at the first sign of resentment. With time many staff members ascertain there is no point seeking information through him. Some gets frustrated and leave the organisation. Others simply manage within the existing status co. 

Over time the company reaches the scale that is of a top player in the industry. Value provided by John is limited to the best of his ability or several of his deputies. John does some research on his own and try to incorporate best IT practices. However he is driven by the sense of individual accomplishment and would do everything within his power to justify his view point. It's natural that he feels that he knows whats best for the organisation. Usually at such a point John will reach a level where he feels that his intellect is above all solutions out there. To his credit he has developed groundbreaking systems in the past.Thus he logically dispels outside solutions mostly citing cost and justifying to the management that he could develop something bespoke for a fraction of the cost. With a myopic view on cost management cede to John. He becomes stronger and stronger in the process. 

A scenario where John receiving a better break and moving out of the organisation could be a blessing in the disguise for this company. For starters they will be able to instil new blood to the position who could bring in a fresh perspective. Usually such personnel would rarely leave an organisation or for that matter the position. They become so comfortable with the environment they resent any change. And why should they? They enjoy themselves and the company certainly takes care of them. Greater danger for the organisation lies in the continuation of John in his current capacity. With its myopic view the organisation has reached a point of stagnation in terms of the potential of their systems as it is limited to John's thinking. They fail to understand that outside, third party solutions are fine-tuned based on thousands of customer feedback around the world thus incorporating industry best practices which are evolving on a daily basis. The fail to recognise the fact that best in class solutions do bring industry best practices to the organisation. Any progressive organisation understands that "our way of doing things" is not the best way!

Further the organisation would at the mercy of John with such level of dependency! Certainly not the risk mitigation strategy that would be to the liking of any board of directors. 

Over a period of time a progressive leader might recognise this issue and may take corrective action. But the question is, whether it would be too late then. 

On a different note John too may suffer professionally if he is forced to look for  job outside of his current organisation. At his level companies expect "John"s to partner with business and proactively see how they could add value to the process. They would rarely expect John to spend valuable time in reinventing the wheel. 

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