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  • Writer's pictureHillel Glazer

Why Are We Still Here?

I think about challenges and solutions to organizational change a lot. I mean. A LOT. After my family, it's probably second only to how often I think about aviation. Can you blame me? Given the choice between aviation and organizational change, which would a sane person choose to think about?

At this point in my life thoughts of aviation don't do much for my career, so I spend work time thinking about organizational change. I'm in multiple LinkedIn groups on the topic and I read dozens if not hundreds of posts a week related to my profession. Many of the posts are truly brilliant. Too many are sophomoric platitudes lifted out of textbooks.

Modern Sisyphus. We keep pushing that rock.

Despite the abundance of knowledge about what does and doesn't lead to successful businesses from an organizational and operational perspective, too many companies persist in operating in ways that lead to suboptimal outcomes. Why? Why do companies keep behaving in ways we know will lead to failure?

Out of curiosity I asked ChatGPT to dig up some reasons. Much to my disappointment, but not surprise, ChatGPT only came up with the same old self-referential tropes with circular logic. Sure, the reasons are interconnected and the AI chatbot doesn't actually understands what it's displaying. But when pressed for root causes it only decomposed each item into additional generalities that still mirrored material elsewhere in its response.

This tells me that the vast majority of reasons are neither explained nor solved with the most popular thinking in this space. It also reinforces the vicious cycle of companies falling into the same traps and only digging themselves deeper using ubiquitous but ineffective "get well" techniques.

Here's what ChatGPT had to say are five reasons for this behavior:

  1. Short-Term Focus and Immediate Profits

  2. Resistance to Change and Inertia

  3. Lack of Proper Leadership and Vision

  4. Organizational Silos and Ineffective Communication

  5. Pressure from External Factors

OK. But again: WHY?

Short-Term Focus and Immediate Profits

By whom?

Resistance to Change and Inertia

From where?

Lack of Proper Leadership and Vision

This one is actually getting somewhere.

Organizational Silos and Ineffective Communication

Whose fault is that?

Pressure from External Factors

This is a total cop-out.

So I asked the bot to distill its answers into three distinct root causes and it came up with:

  1. Short-Term Orientation and Financial Pressures

  2. Ineffective Leadership and Organizational Culture

  3. External Influences and Market Demands

Next, I asked it for an approach to address these issues and it came up with exactly what you'd expect:

  1. Long-Term Vision and Purpose

  2. Leadership Development

  3. Balanced Incentive Structures

  4. Agility and Adaptability

  5. Cross-Functional Collaboration

  6. Innovation and Research Investment

  7. Strategic Planning for External Factors

  8. Stakeholder Engagement

  9. Continuous Improvement

  10. Measurement and Accountability

Blah, blah, blah.

OK... but again... we know this and people routinely don't do it.

Now I'm seeing a pattern.

Using nothing but basic "O.G." intelligence, we can perhaps see a common, if unpopular, conclusion:

  • We're trying to solve the wrong problems, so clearly, we're not solving them with the right tools.

  • We're failing to address the deepest causes of whichever problems we are trying to solve, so whatever we're doing will always be short-lived.

  • We're solving problems for the wrong reasons, and by extension we're not solving for the right outcomes.

ChatGPT wasn't entirely out to lunch. It did, in fact, conclude each list—unwittingly, of course—with a statement that confirmed my observations and pointed to the true root cause(s).

Before I get into that, I'd like to hear from you.

What's missing? Why do companies keep making the same missteps we know lead to failure? Why do people like me still have jobs to fix these messes?

Perhaps a more important question is, will it ever change? What would it take to change?


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