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Wednesday, January 23, 2013

What is OCD and why is it important to your company?

The U.S.National Library of Medicine identifies Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) as an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).  Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety.

OCD also exists in organizations, however, in organizations OCD stands for Organizational Compression Disorder. In this case, OCD exists when managers don't operate within the right realm of responsibly. It's often observed as managers at all levels (line, middle, senior and executive) focus a bulk of their efforts on tasks and objectives that should be the focus of a lowerI level of management. In essence, these managers are unknowingly compressing the natural hierarchy of the organization.  This compression often leads to huge inefficiencies and commonly negatively impacts employee engagement because of a perception of micro-management.

From my observations, OCD occurs for a similar reason as the well know psychological syndrome, individual anxiety. The difference is that the anxiety is commonly driven because of a lack of understanding and for a desire to control outcomes. The anxiety is normally based on the best intentions, executed poorly.  

The most common root cause is managers not understanding their role in the organizations.  Often, successful individual contributors are promoted or hired into management roles because they were highly effective in their previous role.  Most successful people continue to rely on the behaviors, skills and habits that made them successful in old roles (similar to compulsion).  While this does lead to some success (temporary relief), over time, it also leads to front-line managers acting as individual contributors, middle managers acting as front-line mangers, and so on. Getting managers to change these work habits requires them to stop doing many of the things they do out of compulsion - leading to increased anxiety, until they learn new patterns for success.

This pattern often leads entire management teams into routines and practices that only address immediate problems (a.k.a. fire fighting), conflict, increase stress and generally reduce effectiveness.  When asked, most managers who are working in compressed organizations will report that they feel like management is more than a full-time job, they are over worked and under appreciated.

The best way to address OCD is to first recognize it exists (you can't change what you don't acknowledge).  Then, support managers in developing awareness and understanding of their role and function within the organization.  Next, develop the appropriate support mechanisms (orientation, training, rewards, compensation, etc.) to encourage a high level of performance across the entire management structure.

Leaders in organizations that address OCD are often surprised and relieved when they begin to see the results - a high functioning organization where people are engaged and motivated to accomplish common objectives.

Have you witnessed OCD? What has it looked like in your organization? What have you done or seen to address OCD?

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Defuse Difficult People

This is an excellent quick tip video. Three steps to help focus on how one should focus their responses to difficult people by understanding ones own reactions and managing them in the moment in an effort to influence positive progress.