One of my favorite business books of all time is “The Oz Principle: Getting Results Through Individual and Organizational Accountability,” a book that explores the impact of personal accountability in the achievement of business and individual results. In the book, one of the core concepts teed up is the notion of below-and above-the-line behavior.

If you are accountable, then you’re focused on the desired results/outcomes regardless of the circumstance, and your behaviors are above the line. If not, then they are below the line. Some below-the-line behaviors are:

  • Justifications and excuses
  • Blame-storming
  • Denying
  • The wait-and-see method
  • CYA, or cover your “butt”
  • Confusion

And… the age old… “It’s not my job.”

The “It’s not my job” behavior is pervasive in the business world. We may see top-earning sales reps refuse to send an initial email to a lead because it’s “the job” of the inside sales team to send the first note—even if it means a lost opportunity. Or, when something critical falls through the cracks and a leader asks the employee what happened, the response is “it’s not my job.” What’s worse, leaders may see that a cross-department issue that is affecting the entire organization yet no one will take a stand to fix it, suggesting it’s always “someone else’s problem.”

We see this most clearly when we look at business process and technology obstacles, areas typically attributed to “the job” of IT and operations. But the way our teams use technology and depend on workflows is very much our problem. And though we may not always have the answer or expertise on how to fix the problem, we still have a responsibility to raise the concern to the surface.

A Mounting Issue

We already know that businesses are evolving at a breakneck pace, necessitating the need for organizations to respond in a quicker, more agile manner. We see this most pronounced at the technology level with the pace of technology advancement moving at a snail’s pace in the business world when compared to the consumer world.

Despite the amazing technological advancements out there—mobile applications, portals, etc.—so many companies still operate by spreadsheet, with the “Excel guy/gal” being regaled as the hero. What’s more, though we know technology exists to connect our most pertinent business systems—e.g. our CRM and office phone system—we still maintain siloed systems.

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What’s perhaps most surprising is that we fail to innovate while knowing that it is killing our teams! Did you know that 75% of American workers don’t believe they have access to the latest efficiency-boosting technology? What’s more, companies lose 20 to 30 percent in revenue every year due to inefficiencies. In other words, a lack of efficient technology is singlehandedly casing business inefficiency.  

If the impact of this is so big, why don’t more businesses focus on fixing these problems?

I believe that oftentimes we don’t tackle process, technology and systems issues because they contribute to hidden losses, or pains that don’t ever necessarily roll up to our income sheet. Think about it this way. A company could be experiencing 5 percent year-over-year growth and think they are doing great. They may not realize that they could actually be growing 35 percent year-over-year and be ecstatic. Many times, we don’t realize the impact of broken processes and legacy systems until something boils over.

It is My Job  

Many times, we become apathetic and numb to our situation. We learn to tolerate our circumstance, feeling disempowered to make any change or improvement.  Yet, our frustration remains.

The “It’s not my job” attitude is caused from a lack of accountability. It’s an attitude of acceptance of our circumstances. It is the tolerance of our situation without the “moxie” to rise above our circumstance. We become what we tolerate. If we tolerate inefficiency, we become inefficient. If we tolerate incompetence, we become incompetent.

If broken processes and legacy technologies are the very impediments to productive working teams, happy employees and efficient workforces, then it is every leader’s job to address the problems at hand. If we don’t, we are at risk of employee attrition which ultimately impacts morale, culture and our external stakeholders.

So how do we make it our job? Here are a few ways to get started:

  1. Adopt a mindset of no tolerance. When you do, you shift your mindset to overcome your situation.
  2. Start small. Each ask of your employees to pinpoint the top process or technology issue that drives them crazy. Document their answers.
  3. Prioritize the pain and ask yourself two questions. What is the impact to the business if it continues as is? What is measure of the pain—low or high? We need to first direct our intention to the high impact, high pain areas. It’s here where we need to disrupt our way of being.
  4. Have a dialogue. With the belief that “it is your job,” determine who you need to have your first conversation with to escalate this issue.
  5. And of course, you can always call Trilix if you need help! Shameless plug; I had to do it.

As leaders, we must always be making time to pause and consider:

  • Why are we allowing issues (broken workflows, death-by-spreadsheet environments, manual processes) to remain? We know they need to be solved, so why are we not solving them?
  • Do I have waste within my department—e.g. redundant workflows, high error rates, mistakes?
  • What are evidences that things are not working as they should within my department?
  • What is standing in the way of my department’s ability to reach a heightened level of workplace excellence?

At Trilix, we are passionate about helping leaders recognize that it is their job to tackle process and systems issues that plague their teams. In fact, our upcoming event taking place on March 28th dives into this in further detail. Our event, “Reigniting Workplace Excellence: Balancing Operations and Culture,” is designed to ignite agents of change. We will kick off the event with an awesome panel discussion! I will be joined by Rhode Island business leaders:

  • Suma Gaddam, Senior Vice President & CIO, Care New England
  • Darlene Major, Vice President Corporate Information Systems, Amica Mutual Insurance Co.
  • Tom Pesaturo, Principal, Exceeda Consulting

After we will break out into small groups so that we can identify and share our top business challenges consultatively with our peers. If you are ready to make the technology and process challenges that impact your team “your job,” I hope you’ll come! You can register and find out more by clicking here.

Agents of Change

Each day, we have the opportunity to shape our legacy and to leave our teams and departments a little better tomorrow than they are today. I know what you are thinking… this is hard work! After all, we are dealing with so much whirlwind and competing priorities that sometimes we can forget the obvious—that we have daily grievances that happen repeatedly that keep us from becoming excellent.

So let’s go on this journey together. Let’s resolve to be the agents of change. Let’s choose to make this our job.

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