When I published Your Cash Is Flowing: Why every entrepreneur needs to think like a CFO, I headed a chapter with A Broken Cog Slows All Wheels. I never did a blog post with that title, however, until today. The theme of that chapter was to make the point that a business is system with no one part functioning independent of the others.
Whenever I see a person in a company who is not doing their job completely, I have little doubt that the company is underperforming. There is a certain amount of valuable work that can or should get done on any given day by each individual and if someone is performing below their potential, then that means that either the work is left undone or someone else is picking up the slack which further means that the next individual in the chain is not maximizing their potential. These examples can range from the seemingly trivial to much grander issues. Here are just a few examples.
I know of one person who regularly sends documents that they don’t bother to spell check and often contain factual errors. Trust me, it’s someone at a high enough level with sufficient abbreviations after their name that they should (must) know better. These documents get published to a wider audience which means they are either pushed along with the mistakes or are corrected by the next person in the chain. Ultimately, they get corrected but the time and energy spent doing so takes away from something else the next person could have done.
At the other end of the spectrum, I have witnessed executives all the way up to the CEO level who have absolutely no business being in C-Suite (here’s a podcast link to my view of critical C-Suite skills). If my first example of a staffer pushing along sub-par documents seems rather trivial (and to some extent it is) someone working at the highest levels in the company who is functioning well below the requirements of the job is disastrous. In my experience, no single individual or group of individuals can make up for failure at the top.
The similarity in both of these examples is that people in a company do not work in a vacuum. Every action (or lack thereof) has an effect (even if small) on others. Often the bigger effect than the actual actions is the impact on the morale of the organization. Few things go unnoticed. The corporate grapevine is alive and well. Joe remarks to Suzie that Timmy told her that John didn’t complete an assigned task on time (again) and that Sally had to pick up the slack. I know it sounds like a bad game of telephone in grade school but that’s what happens.
The longer situations like this persist, the greater the impact. It’s the inverse of my
Success Curve. While success builds and becomes cumulative, so does the lack of successful performance. Over time, sub-par work can become the norm rather than the exception.
The answer is to confront the broken cogs in your organization and either fix them or replace them. Stop allowing the broken cog(s) to limit your business performance.
If your business could benefit from fractional CFO services, I would welcome the chance to speak with you. Please give me a call at (314) 863-6637 or send an email to [email protected]
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