The alphabet of an organisation that is in trouble

The alphabet of an organisation that is in trouble

  • The signs of an organization in trouble are often very obvious, but neglected !
  • While no organization will ever be working in harmony, it required to see the writing on the wall before things get ugly
  • Doing an unbiased and realistic’health check’ on the fabric of your organization, prevents getting into a downward performance spiral and provides opportunities for early adjustment


Over the years I have worked with many companies, that got into trouble because of complacency, missing market opportunities, internal politics or simply not understanding that customers are paying their salaries.

There are a number of signs of an organisation that is stuck and will soon be in trouble (if it not already is). In todays volatile, uncertain, complex and ambigous environment no company should allow to be falling for the behaviours described below. All efforts should be concentrated on finding ways to be adaptable, fast, effective, efficient and most important, to utilize the best of peoples creativity and expertise.

Please find below the alphabet of things to look out for to identify these struggling, ineffective and inefficient organisations.


Attentism – the organisation waits for the next big decision to happen (management change, pending acquistion, ….)


Bureaucracy – the requirements to fill internal forms for admin and compliance purposes are demaining more time, then spending time on generating customer value


Complacency is stronger than the desire to innovate.

Communication gaps between executive management and the rest of the team.


Decision fatigue


Establishment rules – long term staff makes new joiners understand that they should not dare to suggest too much change


Fear culture is around everywhere


Great promises are made, but few results are delivered


Hiring experts is seen as the panacea to all problems


Inward focus


Jokes are made on the hallways that the Organization is doomed to fail


Knowledge is not shared among teams, to protect individual positions. Key performance indicators dominate the organization, as it has forgotten how to think strategically and to act as entrepreneurs


Long cycle time is taken to build consensus.

Layer of clay – the middle management has been in place for quite some time and fends off any attempts from the top or bottom for change. When the performance results are not coming in, either top management of lower level / younger colleagues will get fired.


Management teams decide everything – Decisions are not delegated.

Meeting mania – The organization is constantly busy, attending meetings without clear agenda or results.


New joiners are left alone


Open and constructive criticism is not encouraged


Politics dictates the daily priorities. Promotions based on who one knows and not based on performance


Quality of work is decreasing


Resistance to change – Reactive instead of proactive behaviour leading to costly and high effort firefighting actions.


Speed is only visible when people leave the office – Shrinking the organization to profitability, a concept that does not work (see also…)


Trust among colleagues is low

Technology ist not used efficiently


Unwillingness to adopt decisions lead to delayed implementation


Value from the customers perspective is not a known concept


Wasteful processes and practices are everywhere


XF – Cross functional work is not happening


Young staff remains undeveloped


Zero efforts made to change root causes of actions

If you look at your organisation and see more than 3 of the symptoms above at play, be worried. If you see more than 5, then you are in real trouble and we should talk about, what can be done to fix the situation. The great thing is, that it will be people and target related root causes most of the time, all of which can be mitigated.

I am sure that you will be able to add to the list. It would be great if you would share your thoughts as well.