Aug 8, 2022

Treat Org Problems Like Tangled Rope

Treat Org Problems Like Tangled Rope

Treat Org Problems Like Tangled Rope

Nathan King

The problems and conflicts inside of companies are like a tangled rope.

  • The accounting team can't create a easily understandable invoice for a client because during the sales process the client forced the sales team to agree to vague terms for the services it sold. Or maybe because the sales team was too lazy to set expectations with the client. Or maybe the CEO has put forward an impossible to execute strategy causing a vague offering to be put out there in the first place.

  • The marketing department wants to guarantee that the company's candy product has at least 100 pieces in every bag, but the operations team says its machines only fill bags by weight, and can't reliably count. But the competition has a guarantee of 100 pieces per bag or your money back.

  • The CEO says the company doesn't meet profit targets because the sales team isn't executing. The sales team says delivery times are too long to close enough deals. The finance team says the company should raise prices.

How do you untangle these organizational knots?

Some say by brute force. Be a leader: impose your will. But if you yank on one end, the knot gets tighter. You don't make progress. It becomes impossible to resolve knots at all.

Others just give up on the knot and get new rope. But eventually that rope gets tangled too. They have more knots than they started with.

Both of those approaches lead to dysfunctional organizations.

The solution is simple, but maddening. To untangle a knot, you have to gently probe the tangled loops until you find where the rope will give and gently pull them apart. Through close examination, gentle coaxing, and slow, methodical attention, you remove the impairments and restore the rope to its promise.

The gentle coaxing, slow, methodical attention, and close examination in an organization is understanding your leaders, building trust, and persuading others to take action that aligns everyone along a common path.

Another way to say this is: persuasion (untangling) is to speak the language of the heart. You are offering change, and change doesn't happen by force or by ignoring it. Achieving change requires the language of the heart.

  • What do people want?

  • What do they want for their careers?

  • What do they want for people around them?

  • What do they want for their own bosses?

  • What do they fear?

With the knots that you face, consider those questions for the people involved in the knot. And as you formulate your possible actions to untangle the knots, compare your approach to how knots get made and how they get untangled:

Actions That Lead to Tangled Knots

  • It may feel good to LET THE DATA SPEAK by generating exhaustive Excel analyses, but are you dumping an ungodly sum of information on people? How does the data alleviate their fears and nudge them towards their desires?

  • A knot is too much information together. I've got TOTAL SALES by MONTH. But you need to know the variation between the sales people, the type of customer, the region, the product. A combination of all of these gives it truth.

  • A proposal from the isolation of your imagination doesn't gently pull the ends of the knot. It tightens it.

  • Recommendations for what others should do tightens the knot. How will their efforts get easier? How will you help them make it better?

Actions That Loosen Tangled Knots

  • Based on what you are recommending, what is the transformation that the organization will experience? A knot is a "stuck point" blocking the way of TRANSFORMATION. Simply remember transformation, and your proposals will be better.

  • Connect two different data sources that weren't connected before. Remove the common errors and a pattern of data will be refreshed and available to leaders much more frequently.

  • Present the CEO with a reason a service offering should change with quotes from 3 different customers stating their unprompted request for the change.

  • It isn't a eureka or DO THIS that you proclaim, it is making CLEAR what is not known, what is at risk, the upside of the options, the potential downsides.

Look closely at the conflicts and problems in your company. And evaluate your actions to resolve them: are you loosening the knot or tightening it? Too many people are mystified by the knots. Attend to them, and be gentle. Everyone will be glad you did.




I help leaders and teams achieve clarity and alignment so they can reach their potential


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