Too many people on the bus. Good to great right seat right people just too many. Creating an organizational disaster of distrust

Consulting and coaching organizations to develop systems of work that lead to desired behaviors. The people I am working with often quote Jim Collins Good-to-Great:

…leaders of companies that go from good to great start not with “where” but with “who.” They start by getting the right people on the bus, the wrong people off the bus, and the right people in the right seats. And they stick with that discipline—first the people, then the direction—no matter how dire the circumstances.”

This is a great quote! Then I ask them…
  • How do you determine the right people?
  • How do you know who the wrong people are?
  • How did the wrong people get there in the 1st place?
  • How many seats ought to be on your bus?
  • What are the right seats for the right people?
  • How is that determined?
  • What is the proper order of accountability & authority for the people on the bus?
  • What if you had the right person in the right seat, then you added the wrong person? How do you know that it is the wrong person?

Much of the confusion and frustration comes from having too many layers of management in the organization. In other words:

Like Collins in Good-to-Great, getting the right people on the bus in the right seat is important. Unfortunately companies keep adding seats and squeezing in extra and unnecessary layers. Causing increased tension and everyone feeling squished, micromanaged, distrusted and unsafe.

I’ve written more about this:

What to do?

We all agree the right people are necessary, and we agree they have to be in the proper location. One thing to do is have a serious talk about how many layers of management you have and if your bus is too tightly packed.

This can be accomplished by looking at your Organization Chart and seeing who manages whom. Then going to the people and asking them, “The org chart states that B is your manager, and who do you go to for advice and who do you feel can offer value to your work?”  This does not have to change anything immediately.

For example, with one company I consulted and worked with through a substantial reorganization of management and project teams, we determined that most frontlines felt that their manager’s manager was the most useful. Plus, they often went to their manager’s manager for advice, help with the work, and ideas for dealing with challenging customers and clients, and they all knew that their manager’s manager controlled merit increases.

This was causing tension between the front-line manager and her manager…It was fixed by making the direct manager a Specialist in the field with less management accountability and authority and more individual work, keeping her salary and benefit to the company at the same if not a higher level.

Removing that layer of management suddenly freed up much of the front-line staff to feel more autonomous and motivated – because the pressure of too much management was gone.

Think about the questions above about your organization and team…Even if you have the right people, you can still have too many of them in the wrong place.