What makes organizations supremely effective? This is a question that experts in organizational behavior and strategic management have been grappling with in terms of multiple answers with less than optimal solutions. From Hawthorne Experiments to Theory X and Y, and from Core Competence to Competitive Strategy, leadership experts and management gurus have been examining the triggers and levers for effective performance. These theories and practices focus on facilitative behavioral processes such as motivation and empowerment, controlling behavioral processes such as responsibility and accountability, facilitative transactional processes such as goal setting and strategy formulation, and controlling transactional processes such as execution and moderating. With several extensions and nuances to these typical processes, and with confluence of several disciplines, the whole gamut of effective delivery by teams and organizations has become an increasingly complex mosaic that is increasingly fascinating but tantalizingly imperfect. The reason for the complex imperfection is rather simple.
Just as machines cannot replace people (because people are required to design, make and deploy such people-replacing machines) processes cannot replace people (because people are required to prescribe, understand and implement processes). As organizations and corporations are made up of several hundreds and even several thousands of people, understanding people (and people dynamics) is the foundation of organizational effectiveness. People can be understood through multiple attributes but the essential enigma is that every person experiences all through his or her life a very fundamental human paradox of wanting to be independent and dependent simultaneously. From the time a baby is born, the paradox of dependence and independence, whether it is called ‘dependent independence’ or ‘independent dependence’ becomes explicit. With age, education and experience, the paradox only becomes more complex with additional attributes and emotions getting embedded in human and organizational behavior. This blog post proposes a rather simple model to define organizational effectiveness through four fundamental human dimensions. These are Loyalty, Objectivity, Faith and Trust. Together, they constitute the LOFT Model of Organizational Effectiveness.
Loyalty, the reality
From the days of royalty, loyalty has been the core of leadership expectations and people behavior. Royalty is defined as being supportive of, and attached to, a particular person or issue. The easiest example is that of a typical king and his loyal subjects. However, what made a good king a great king was when the king also felt loyal to his subjects, and reciprocated their loyalty. As modern organizations took shape with greater number of factors impacting organizational performance, loyalty has taken multiple hues; for example, loyalty to ideology, loyalty to goals, loyalty to nation or society, loyalty to values, besides loyalty to the leader. Loyalty, in fact, is the fundamental factor that promotes a shared concern or alignment between two or more individuals as a partnership, team or as an organization. Loyalty has several other dimensions too. Loyalty leads to a sense of belongingness and ownership. Loyalty, on the flip side, leads also to adulation and subordination of logic to adulation. Loyalty rarely stays constant and consistent as individuals and societies as well as products and services evolve. Loyalty gets positively influenced and modified by objectivity.
Objectivity, for selectivity
Objectivity is the ability to take a view based on data, evidence, logic, rationality and reasoning. Objectivity is the elevated faculty of an educated and experienced human being that tests one’s inescapable biases against the inputs that arise from facts and figures of processes and outcomes, all of these analyzed with logic, rationality and reasoning. Objectivity is at the core of shifting loyalties that occur in organizations, marketplaces and societies. Companies which are loyal to motor cycles, for example, change their views to also bet on scooters based on an objective analysis of consumer preferences. Similarly, long standing brand loyalty can be changed by objective analysis that arises from the factors of objectivity related to product features and performance. Objectivity need not always be based on proven processes or established results. Negative performance can lead to an objective reevaluation of loyalty considerations and shift allegiance based on hypotheses of future. In political campaigns or corporate strategies, more often than not, objectivity and expectations act together rather than only as total objectivity.
Faith, the foundation
Faith is one’s belief in a person’s ability or knowledge; it is also a belief that a particular leader, mission, strategy, ideology or organization would deliver. Despite, or arising from, loyalty and benefitting from objectivity, one develops faith. As the old adage says, faith moves mountains. Faith in technology makes engineers and scientists develop products that consistently outperform the current generation of products. Faith in leaders’ enables people to vote for them in democratic elections. While loyalty to oneself is negative and discouraged, faith in oneself is positive and needs to be encouraged. Faith that comes from knowledge and ability drives positive change in organizations and nations. Faith becomes stronger as human traits of skepticism and cynicism are dispelled by education and experience on one hand, and logic and reason on the other. Faith in medical technology and practice is enabling caretakers to invest their resources and efforts in extending life of even those who are chronically sick. Faith in the capabilities and aspirations of people of a nation motivate leaders to aim at developing economies into super-economies, a development that is evident in the resurgent aspirations of India and its leadership.
Trust, the bond
Trust is the belief that somebody and something is good, sincere, honest and reliable. Trust has a strong emotional element embedded in it. One may have a complete understanding of a team member’s capabilities but unless one believes that the team member would put to use all of his or her capabilities sincerely and transparently, the relationship would not be marked by trust. Trust develops with experience of proven outcomes. Trust develops with credibility. Constitution of a team in terms of its members and the leader needs to be based on trust rather than expediency. Trust based teams and organizations bond better and deliver better. Trust which is based on loyalty, objectivity and faith becomes unshakeable. The leader understands that he or she is placed in a position of trust, and team members believe that the members and leaders trust each other. Amongst the four factors discussed, trust is the team strength that is the most difficult to build and the easiest thing to destroy. Trust tends to be vulnerable to emotions and actions that are both intended and unintended. Objectivity to a large extent, and loyalty and faith to some extent determine the durability of trust factor in teams, organizations, societies and nations.
The LOFT model
Organizations need to understand the human dynamics that determine an organization’s effectiveness. History teaches that even under debilitating circumstances marked by heterogeneity and exploitation, the LOFT model can deliver results. The success of India’s independence movement under the leadership of Mahatma Gandhi is a classic example of the LOFT model that transcends all hurdles and delivers success. Mahatma Gandhi’s preaching and leadership reinforced loyalty of the people to Bharat Mata (Mother India) and to the spirit of independence, overriding all fissiparous tendencies and efforts. Although there were somewhat more aggressive and alternative leadership models, people on the whole were objective in determining who could be, and who would be, the real and enduring Jaati Pita (the Father of the Nation). The people developed a faith not only on Mahatma Gandhi as the leader of independence movement but also on themselves as capable of being the integral part of the independence movement. Individual and community examples of response to Mahatma’s calls, be it in the form of non-violent marches, fasts, salt satyagraha, forsaking of foreign goods or khadi movement, have reinforced trust in each other that all of the Indian population is prepared for sacrifices that would obtain for the nation her independence.
At a micro level in organizations, the LOFT model presents a winning combination of four simple human emotions that are universally present in all individuals. The LOFT model represents a unique resolution of the dependence-independence paradox of human behavior. People would like to be dependent yet independent or independent yet dependent. The paradox of ‘dependent independence’ or ‘independent dependence’ is resolved by these four factors. Leaders need to treat loyalty as a two way process; as much as they need, and revel on, team members’ loyalty, they must also earn loyalty through their thoughts, expressions and actions. Loyalty must also occur on multiple dimensions; to the leader, the organization and the goals. The organizational ecosystem must be one that encourages objectivity that builds on positive outcomes and rational analysis that arise out of education and experience. Loyalty gets stronger with objectivity. The organizational ecosystem must focus on developing a meritocracy that is marked by a belief in what one is capable of, and what the team together is capable of. Faith is the single ingredient that makes impossible possible. And finally, trust is the lofty and sublime emotion that makes individuals, teams, organizations, societies and nations stay together to achieve what they are capable of achieving. The aspiration to move from good to great is fulfilled by the LOFT model, in any domain and on any canvas.
Posted by Dr CB Rao on October 20, 2014