The greatest threat to an organization’s success is not always the competition. Often, it is what a company does to itself. Because of fear, companies become plagued with barriers and bureaucracy that limit success, crush employees, and infuse frustration and a sense of futility across the enterprise. It starts with a narrowing of focus, which leads to the first level of bureaucracy: parochialism. Parochialism exists when managers and departments begin to view the world through the filter of their own little silo and build walls made of rules and policies to protect their turf. As businesses grow and become more complex, the second level of bureaucracy is reached: territorialism. While parochialism is about protecting a department from outsiders, territorialism is about controlling those inside the silo. The third and final level of bureaucracy is empire building, which is a response to perceived threats to a department’s ability to be self-sufficient. These barriers cost organizations a fortune in inefficiency, turnover, waste, and demoralization.
Tearing down these barriers is difficult, but it can be done. Parochialism can be eliminated by resetting rules and policies and refocusing on the ultimate mission of the organization. Territorialism can be eliminated by creating true empowerment, along with appropriate levels of accountability. Empire building can be addressed through shared goals and a set of guiding principles that help act as a referee in decision making.
But that’s not enough. Managers must also create a culture of courage to enable employees to take advantage of these new freedoms and accountabilities. Courage killers must be rooted out and dealt with swiftly and strongly. Finally, leaders must refocus on mission success rather than just checking off their part of the process, manage reference points, and engage employees.
By doing all these things, an organization can become fearless and unstoppable.