The twelve plagues of established enterprises

Twelve reasons why companies lack agility and what you can do about it

The twelve plagues of established enterprises

Most companies lose their start-up mindset as they become bigger. However a few remarkable companies, like Google or Cisco, have maintained the speed, the ability to take risks, the openness that characterize young businesses.

In order to stay agile, the CEOs of these companies have refused the scourges that usually plague big organizations: bureaucracy, internal focus (instead of customer focus), lack of commitment, massive preoccupation with internal politics.

They have built organizational systems and encouraged cultural traits that avoid  the 12 plagues of established corporations.

  •  The defense of the market positions from the past, instead of inventing the future of the industry.
  • The priority given to conformity (with rules, plans, established practices,…) and not to customer delight. When you stop learning from your customers, competitors and potential partners, you cannot acquire the skills and develop the processes that are needed to succeed tomorrow.
  • The multiplication of all kind of management and staff layers, with barons justifying their existence by asking things that keep people from doing their jobs and enjoying their power by blocking initiatives.
  • The obsession with stretched financial objectives, which breeds short-termism, fear of failure and eliminates all the slack (resources in excess) and risk taking required to experiment.
  • Individualized compensation packages and incentive programs that reward individual achievement and run counter a culture of collaboration and mutual assistance.
  • The fear of debate and contradiction instead of the promotion of open exchanges of ideas, beyond organizational and hierarchical boundaries.
  • The widespread distrust which undermines the initiative and creativity of employees, for fear they may not execute properly.
  • The infinite number of boundaries and silos that incite people to defend their turf and keep them from connecting with one another and sharing insights.
  • The closed system mentality which prevents from looking for solutions outside the company.
  • The excessive complexity of the structure and the systems, that keeps being tweaked every year. With a first consequence of wearing everyone out and a second consequence of making it possible to evade personal responsibility for outcomes.
  • Obsessive perfectionism which takes the form of a multiplicity of stultifying analyses, checks, approvals and validations, which causes inaction and missed market opportunities.