Tim Connor, CSP
Corporate disconnect is the major contributor to every one of your challenges, problems or negative issues that undermine your growth, profitability and effectiveness as an organization.
I don’t care whether your sales are less than one million or over fifty billion; you have 10 employees or 50,000. I don’t care if you are a start-up or you have been in business for over 100 years. Let me repeat: Corporate disconnect is at the heart of every problem you face today, yesterday and in the future. Do I have your attention yet?
Some of you may be wondering what corporate disconnect is as I am referring to it here. One of the popular topics of many of my management and leadership programs is entitled just that: Corporate Disconnect – what’s contributing to it and how to avoid it.
In a global and rapidly changing world there are non-stop opportunities and challenges facing business owners, executives and business owners today. These can literally put you out of business in a moment without regard to your history or they can catapult you into the future with tremendous speed.
Change is and has been the mantra for business leaders for a number of years. Change has and will continue to plague your plans and your dreams. Change will require that you keep the vigil and your hand on the wheel with courage, foresight and passion. Change is not sensitive to your lack of direction, goals, plans or strengths and weaknesses. It is totally indifferent to your previous successes and achievements. And your lack of ability to anticipate, prepare for and adjust quickly to change whether you choose them, like them or agree with them is a critical ability that without it will doom your organization whether as a slow kill or an overnight disaster.
If you have ever been in an airplane at 40,000 feet on a clear day I’m sure you’ve had the experience of looking out the window and being able to see for hundreds of miles but also realizing that you couldn’t see any detail on the ground.
To describe CD I’m going to use the illustration of flying as a passenger on an aircraft. This illustration is straightforward and easy to apply to the concept of CD and all of its ramifications, symptoms, causes and solutions.
Let’s say you are returning from a business trip and you have been flying for a few hours over the western part of the US heading toward Los Angeles. As the pilot announces that we are flying over the continental divide you peer out the window and realize that you can see the topography of several states; Colorado, Utah, Wyoming, New Mexico and maybe even a few others. As far as you can see however you can’t see any detail. No cows, trucks or houses. You are just too high to make out anything other than the vast expanse of raw land. An hour later the pilot announces that we are beginning our decent. As you descend through the 20,000 foot level you notice that you can’t see quite as far but the detail is getting a bit clearer. You can see houses, roads and factories but you still can’t tell if that’s a cow down there or a truck. As you get closer to the ground you notice that you can’t see as far off in the horizon but the details are getting clearer. Thirty minutes later as you approach the runway a thought occurs to you. At 500 feet your view of the horizon no longer exists but the details are quite clear. You can tell that there’s a red truck traveling on the highway off to your right. You land and another safe trip behind you.
The analogy. Presidents, CEO’s, CFO’s and other senior executives are typically flying at the 40,000 foot level in their organizations. They can see a long way. Their vision for the future is clear and their awareness of major storms or opportunities can be easily seen at this altitude. But details? Not a clue. Middle managers, directors or senior staff employees are typically flying at the 20,000 foot level in their organizations. They don’t have as clear a view of the horizon as their superiors since they are 20,000 feet lower but their view of the details is a bit more evident, not totally clear but better than at the 40,000 feet level.
Then there are the employees in your organization who are flying at the 500 feet level, almost at ground level. They don’t have a clue what’s going on beyond their desk or the building next door but they can tell you what customers think, what policies or procedures are working or not working and what is generally going on in the bowels of the organization. The know the details, they live them every day but they, for the life of them, don’t always see the connection between the reality at 500 feet and the vision or decisions at 40,000 feet.
Here’s the simple truth in once sentence. If the reality of what is going on in the marketplace, with your customers, with your competitors or with your employees is not getting to the 40,000 feet level I will guarantee you are experiencing CD. Or, if the vision, leadership or goals at the 40,000 are not finding their way to the 500 feet level I guarantee you are experiencing the many negative issues of CD in your organization.
So what is corporate Disconnect? It’s when your employees who do the work don’t see a connection of their efforts to the vision of your senior management. It’s when your senior management makes decisions or takes actions at the 40,000 feet level; new policies, new products or services, acquisitions, new divisions or branches, new anything and they do it with getting in touch with the reality at 500 feet – beware. This is a recipe for lost customers, lost revenue, lost growth, poor employee retention, and any other negative corporate malaise you can think of. Got a bad case of CD in your organization? Here’s a little truth to consider. I haven’t found a single organization in my 40 year speaking and training career that didn’t have some degree of CD going on in their organization. So, it would appear that have a case of CD is normal? Yes, every company has it.
Here’s the real problem. I don’t care how bad your case of CD is or whether you are aware of it, fixing it, ignoring it - whatever – As long as you’re CD doesn’t ever touch your customer of the market place, no problem, you will most likely survive CD’s symptoms. However, if your CD does touch your; customers, suppliers, the marketplace, your prospects, watch you. You may be in for a long and difficult recovery period and a few emergency room visits along the way.
So now you know what CD is. Want to know how bad you have it – whether you need surgery or over the counter meds?