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My Wish for 2011: More Companies That Don't Suck

Dec 27, 2010 – 5:00 AM
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Dave Logan

Special to AOL News
Most companies make life difficult for employees, customers and suppliers, and they're so underperformed that it's fair to say that they suck.

So here's my wild, impossible, can't-happen wish for 2011, that just might happen if enough people get behind it: That companies across the land would align on common values, seek new ways to express those core commitments, shed habits and practices that are out of alignment with who they are, and reject tyrannical management even when it comes from the CEO.

Dave Logan's 2011 Wish is for more companies that don't suck.
Courtesy of Dave Logan
Dave Logan's 2011 Wish is for more companies that don't suck.
Getting there is both easier and scarier than it appears.

Easier because it starts with passion and commitment, not with knowing how to make it happen. Scarier because there isn't a roadmap. The key point here is commitment. Commitment is what drove people to sign the Declaration of Independence and to march with Martin Luther King Jr. And it will take commitment to reshape the landscape of businesses. For at least a decade, leaders have tried simplistic advice, lame business books and common-sense solutions. The result? We're living it.

To see what we're up against, let's look at the "state of the tribes" that make up the American economy. On a scale of one to five, one being criminal clusters of Bernie Madoffs, and five being the most innovative, collaborative and prone to do great things for everyone they touch, 75 percent of work tribes are at a three or below. If you want the details, check out "Tribal Leadership," a book I co-authored in 2008 with John King and Halee Fischer-Wright, which reports on data from more than 24,000 people over more than eight years.

The most common question I'm asked, when people hear how a few leaders are creating world-changing tribes within their companies is: But what if the boss isn't for this? Around the world, from 2008 until today, tens of thousands of leaders (usually not the chief executive) have committed to getting into the top 25 percent. The vast majority are fighting a two-front war: the change they committed to, and a boss who doesn't get what they're trying to do.

Margaret Mead is widely reported to have said that "a small group of thoughtful, committed" people can change the world. Amen.

But here's my corollary: never doubt that a small group of thoughtless, uncommitted people will try to stop the world from changing. They do so every day, and they run the largest corporations in the world. People who are good by nature but trained in yesterday's management techniques are running companies, and the result is disengagement, disempowerment and despair. That's a big reason companies suck. It's like software from 1960 running today's computers.

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So to really reshape this situation, we need the chief executives and chief-executives-to-be to commit to making our work tribes engaging, productive and inspiring. For those who say "but we can't afford to," here's another finding from "Tribal Leadership": as a company's work tribes move up the one-to-five scale, bottom-line revenue increases geometrically. Increases of 300 to 500 percent are not uncommon.

So this little dream for the New Year would end the recession, return America to near full employment, fix our educational crisis and increase the value of businesses by a dramatic degree. It would prevent future Wall Street meltdowns and tame the next bubble.

The people who lose are the ones who don't know how and let that lack of knowing stand in their way. When people signed the Declaration of Independence, they weren't sure what was on the other side. That's how deep change starts: commitment and courage.

Anyone with me?

Dave Logan is a best-selling coauthor of "Tribal Leadership" and "Three Laws of Performance," a senior partner with CultureSync and a faculty member at USC's Marshall School of Business. To learn more about his books and to read his blog, visit Red Room.

My Wish for 2011 -- An AOL News Year-End Special
We asked a dozen top writers to share their wishes for the New Year. Click on any headline to read what they hope will happen in 2011.
Filed under: Opinion, Year End
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