The intentions, objectivity and execution of a successful organization

In today’s mail I received a very lovely talking birthday card from the NY Jets, with a personal note from head coach Rex Ryan.  Of course my birthday was almost two weeks ago and the card arrived the day after Coach Ryan’s team lost 49-19 to their fierce AFC East rival New England Patriots. The Jets have now lost their last 2 home games by a combined score of 79-28, both to fierce AFC East rivals.

The Jets are proud professionals; I have no doubt these Jets want to win every game and even if I pay an absurd price for Jets club seats and personal seat licences, sending me a birthday card is a very nice touch from an organization that clearly wants to do the right thing. But the utter consistency between the lousy play of an utterly undisciplined team and their sending birthday cards two weeks too late is reinforcement the NY Jets is still an organization that can’t execute on anything.  At this juncture, I’m rather convinced that Matthew Broderick based his character Jimmy Winter on Jets owner Woody Johnson in the terrific Broadway musical “Nice Work if You Can Get It.”

Under-performing companies tend to take operate much the same way the lost and wounded NY Jets do: breakdowns in every facet of the business conspire to keep them from achieving very much. Mediocrity becomes the norm, miscues are rationalized, management does more to justify why they have been victims of bad luck or bad economies rather than engaging the strenuous process that will really fix the apparent and growing structural problems.  Just as Rex Ryan continues to defend the embarrassingly horrible play of his poster boy QB Mark Sanchez, most managers in troubled companies strenuously defend their direct report employees guilty of their own on-the-job fumbles, interceptions and routine bad judgment.

Businesses are a collection of human beings and it is only natural that people who spend so much time together in the same workplace in their chosen field will develop close relationships with one another.  I’m always particularly wary of those proclaiming “we’re so close and we so care about each other we’re like a family!”— because they are guaranteed to be the least objective of all.  Just as being a player’s coach serves Rex Ryan well when he has talent that can win games, I can’t fully blame management for failing to stop a company in decline when it is built on a culture of camaraderie.  Clearly, I’m not suggesting organizations should not foster positive working conditions, but when they are plagued by poor execution it becomes necessary to bring in professionals who do not carry the baggage of established relationships.

Without objectivity even the best intentions won’t be sufficient. Bringing in external help to navigate through diminished performance is not a sign of weakness, in fact excellent executive teams recognize its importance.  My experience is only the strongest executives, those with the serious intentions of winning have the good sense to engage objective professionals to align intentions with objectivity that will drive desired results through superb execution on all levels.

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