When I was in the Navy that term was used to describe an organization that had no other purpose other than sustaining the survival of the organization itself.
The business counterpart is what I call an Organizational “Black Hole” (OBH). It sucks up activity and productivity with nothing of value produced in return. It’s a phenomenon I’ve observed in both government and the private sector, so neither world has a corner on the market. I suggest as a leader that you should periodically take a look at your organization to ensure you remain well outside the influence of the OBH.
OBH’s have the following items in common:
- They tend to form when an entity reorganizes frequently
- There is excessive focus on development of strategy
- There is little focus on execution of strategy
- Their mission and/or desired results are not clear
- They have highly organized and complicated structures
- They have difficulty in articulating what they do in plain English
- They are always in meetings
I consider the balance between strategy and execution to be the most significant problem in an OBH. Successful and growing organizations have a healthy balance between the two. If there is too much focus on strategy, companies are constantly conducting strategic off-sites because they never feel like the previous strategy is accomplishing the desired results. This problem results in companies where metrics are rarely established and responsibility seldom assigned for elements of the strategy. Therefore, no one really knows if the strategy is being effective or not.
If a company focuses too much on execution, it never achieves its growth targets because of a fundamental business rule:”You can’t double revenue by doing twice as much of the same thing.” I’ve noticed that many OBH’s have very sophisticated organizational structures. The organization spends too much time on internal structure and self-admiration. The leadership feels very comfortable with this complex organizational structure because it gives the outside observer the illusion of operational excellence. I firmly believe it’s possible to organize yourself right out of business.
The dilemma leaders face is that as companies grow, they require more structure. But structure tends to inhibit agility and entrepreneurship, thus limiting growth. Good leaders know how to put just enough structure in place to allow for growth without adversely impacting agility and entrepreneurship.
So beware the Organizational Black Hole syndrome. Be highly suspicious of briefings pregnant with elegant organization charts, explained with a healthy dose of “buzz words” like stovepipes, barriers, synergistic effects, vis-a vis, etc. Make sure the focus is not so much on structure as it is on execution and results. There’s a quote I like from Stephen Covey….”The main thing is to keep the main thing the main thing.” Make your main thing execution and you can’t go wrong.
CCA’s mission is to deliver C-suite consulting services to commercial and government clients by providing advice and counsel in strategic planning, executive coaching and organizational restructuring. If you are interested about learning more about CCA and how we provide Business Advice with Integrity, visit us on the web at www.CCA-VA.com or contact VADM Lou Crenshaw USN(Ret.) at lou@CCA-VA.com or directly at 571-421-7622.