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Monday, June 29, 2015


Moe (my lovely bride of 38 years) and I have learned a great deal from the country wisdom of some of the old-timers we live among out here is West Texas.  One of those pearls of wisdom came from an old rancher in this form:  "If you can't find something broken, you ain't looking hard enough."

The same wisdom holds for life in organizations.  While usually not as obvious as a flat tractor tire or broken fence, the problems that surface in organizational work need just as much of our prompt remedial attention.

In organizational life, however, discerning where/what the problems are can be a nuanced endeavor for leaders.  Here are some strategies that have proven helpful in "looking hard enough" for those issues that cause organizational dysfunction:

  • Walk the premises, and pay attention to what we're looking at.
  • Invite frontline worker and customer feedback by asking questions AND listening to their responses.
  • Always thank customers and employees for their feedback (even if, especially if, it is painful to hear).
  • Apologize for boos boos past, but quickly direct the conversations toward fixes future.  It's always about getting better from where we are today.
  • NEVER shoot or diminish the messengers.  They know/see/hear things that we don't, and need to. 
Tractor flats and broken fences and limping organizational systems are best dealt with before they reach crisis status.  

There's always something broken.  We need to be looking.

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