People problem in an organization

People problem in an organization might be due to simply ‘out of habitat’ situation. And this usually a symptom of system disconnections. 

I usually said, systemic error, not use whether that is a correct use of term (if you knew more than me, please share it in the comment section)

System Disconnections

Every enterprise is a “living people system” made up of employees, customers and leaders or some might refer to as the stakeholders, those whom directly and indirectly involved with the enterprise. These groups most of the time are interdependent.

Senior executives who understand this interdependence make the most effective leaders. They realize that many of the challenges they face are “people problems,” such as “internal conflicts, distrust, employee disengagement, low morale, high…turnover, turf battles, too much politicking, leaders hoarding power, low level of accountability, communication breakdowns, workflow bottlenecks” and “power battles.”

People problems are symptoms of system disconnections. They occur when executives impose leadership approaches that aren’t suitable for the specific type of firm they lead. Inappropriate leadership policies undermine the inter-dependencies among leaders, employees and consumers. And this would lead to disastrous impact on their organization and their abilities to meet the promises made to their customers (their deliverables)

Example: (Case study)

(1) AOL and Time Warner merger: 

  • illustrate what can go wrong when leaders prove insensitive to or inadvertently operate against their enterprises’ characteristics
  • Now they are, again, independent companies (the merger doesn’t work out well)
  • The companies interact like ‘oil & water’ due to fundamental differences in their enterprise characteristics. Because they didn’t sell to the same people (different customer deliverables) and their employees and leaders had nothing in common. So, integration most likely be an issue.
  • based on enterprise characteristics, AOL was a best-in-class enterprise while Time Warner is a predictable and dependable enterprise.
  • 2-years later, the 2 companies went their own way as independent entities. At that time, their combined values was less than 1/7 of what it was on the day they merge. Regarded as one of the worst business deals in US history.

Peter Drucker explained why the right systems matter so much to companies. Citing a “fundamental insight underlying all management science,” he said, “the business enterprise is a system of the highest order: a system whose parts are human beings contributing voluntarily…to a joint venture” According to Drucker, “interdependence” is the linchpin of well-functioning systems. AOL co-founder Steven Case and Time Warner CEO Gerald Levin didn’t lead their companies or set their goals based on a “system-centric” point of view. They failed to understand their separate businesses as living people systems of linked consumers, workers and executives.

(2) Ron Johnson and Carly Fiorina

  • A case where the leaders adopt a dysfunctional “individual-centric mind-set” instead of a more “system-centric mind-set”
  • Ron Johnson, a successful Apple executive, failed miserably when he took over as CEO at JCPenney department stores in 2011. Johnson couldn’t reorient his mind-set from the workings of Apple, a best-in-class enterprise, to the wildly different operations and environment – and system – at JCPenney, a predictable and dependable enterprise. During Johnson’s two-year tenure at the retail chain, sales plummeted 25%.
  • Carly Fiorina ran into similar issues when she took over as CEO of Hewlett-Packard. Like Johnson, Fiorina operated with a best-in-class mind-set. This didn’t work well for Hewlett- Packard, a customized enterprise. Fiorina’s time at Hewlett-Packard was no more successful than Johnson’s tenure at JCPenney.
  • One size does not fit all.

This highlight the importance of adapting to the organization characteristic.

Paradox : Sometimes just being yourself is the worst thing to do

 “Connect Your Customer Promise, Culture and Leadership”

  1. Customer promise = what does your customer expects from your organization. Find out for facts, never assume.
  2. Culture = A must of all organization to get the buy-in from their employees on their cultural values.
  3. Leadership = Must be like the chameleons adapting to the situation, personnel and most importantly the organization characteristics.


  1. E. Schneider,Lead Right for Your Company’s Type (2017)
  2. Authentic Leadership Framework
  3. Paradox : Sometimes just being yourself is the worst thing to do

Categories: Personal Development

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