25 Warning Signs Your Company is Becoming Irrelevant

You may think it’s winning the race. But watch out for tortoise competitors ready to eat your lunch.

So what’s lurking?

Insidious losses. Spreading like deadly diseases that aren’t recognized until it’s too late. Then the plummet begins.

Remember the fable of the tortoise and the hare? The moral of that story is often stated as slow and steady wins the race. But let me suggest an expansion of that famous moral. Slow and steady only wins the race when the superior competitor becomes complacent and the mediocre competitor stays the course.

Maybe your company believes it holds an insurmountable advantage in the marketplace. That it’s truly invincible. Or maybe your company believes it could never overcome the superiority of the #1 company in your industry. Both of these beliefs are false.

Whether your company resembles the tortoise or the hare, here’s 25 warning signs to pay attention to. Ignore these at your own risk.

Loss of Identity

“ Somebody is born.
Somebody goes to school.
Somebody learns to conform.
Somebody types a CV.
Somebody gets a job.
Somebody follows orders.
Somebody gets a golden watch.
And then, eventually,
Somebody dies.
And, a Nobody is buried.”
― Mokokoma Mokhonoana

1. Employees must conform before performing.

Employees are often put in a box. The degree to which they comply with company norms can translate into how good or bad a performance evaluation turns out. This affects raises and promotions. In this stage, there is an attempt to preserve corporate identity at the expense of the individual identity.

2. Climbing the corporate ladder is enchanting.

Just watch your head. The Peter Principle says that, in a hierarchy every employee tends to rise to his/her level of incompetence. This is where the loss of corporate identity begins. It’s that point when employees begin to experience new layers of frustration, anger, fear and hopelessness.

3. The elephants are gathering in the room.

But all the trumpeting is being ignored. Turf is being protected and what is perceived as unpleasant conversation avoided. That’s until one of the elephants is exposed and a stampede begins. Now it’s time for an all-out challenge of the corporate identity.

4. The inmates are running the asylum.

The fallout from the stampede leaves chaos. Employees seeking leadership can’t find any and try to to assume the role themselves.Those least capable are now in positions of authority. There is no method to the madness. Employee in-fighting and turnover accelerates.

5. Collective consciousness is missing.

There is an absence of a shared vision. Divergent beliefs, opinions and moral compasses are accentuated but not appreciated. Consequently, there is no attempt made to reach common ground.

Loss of Value

“For most people, art is only valuable if other people say it is; and artists are only worthwhile if they are either rich and famous, or dead.”
― Wayne Gerard Trotman

6. The gifts of others are being overlooked.

In the quest for conformity (a.k.a. a good fit), a company can easily overlook an individual’s hidden talents and interests. It’s like leaving money on the table. Lots of it.

7. There is dissatisfaction when bars are set high.

Employees are losing interest in helping the company succeed. They begin to feel disengaged-sort of like a heavy rock slowly worn away and not sharing in the journey of a fast moving stream.

8. Disorganization runs rampant.

That means opportunities are missed. Growth is stifled. The wheel is perpetually being reinvented. Time is lost. And when things get disorganized enough? Excessive absenteeism results.

9. There is a shutdown of ideas.

Leader in the limelight can make a company visible. But it doesn’t make a company relevant.

10. Space is cluttered with non-essentials.

That doesn’t mean only physical space. It includes agendas, strategic plans, job descriptions, work schedules and procedures too. Plenty of white space can be good because it encourages focus on essentials.

Loss of Integrity

“I am not bound to win, but I am bound to be true. I am not bound to
succeed, but I am bound to live up to what light I have.”
― Abraham Lincoln

11. Me-first outweighs we-first.

A sense of entitlement can quickly lead to conflict in the workplace. When I becomes more relevant than we, no buy-in from others is required. This is a direct threat to achieving collective consciousness.

12. Talking is more important than listening.

The five purposes for communication are to inform, imagine, influence, meet social expectations and express feelings. Do you see speaking to impress others listed as a purpose? To be relevant listen more- both individually and as an organization.

13. Relationships are phony.

Pretending is required to play the part of a toxic coworker. Blabbing confidential information is a specialty. Selling you out to the first questioning supervisor is another tactic. Squeezing you like an orange then throwing away the peel yet another. Relevance requires trust and phony doesn’t fit the bill.

14. Actions don’t match words.

Today you get a huge raise with high praise. In 3 months you are terminated without cause. How can inconsistencies like this be explained? Actions speak louder than words and show what a company really stands for.

15. Humility is hard to find.

Why are employees looking for a stage? Why are leaders looking to put another feather in their cap? Relevant organizations understand humility is not a weakness. Rather, it is viewed as a reminder that there is something bigger than ourselves at every turn.

Loss of Momentum

“If the road behind me is not growing ever longer, then it is likely that the feet underneath me are not moving any longer. And if my feet are not moving, I have somehow, somewhere traded this most glorious journey for lesser endeavors.”
― Craig D. Lounsbrough

16. Meetings are treated as checklist items.

Every Monday morning we will have a meeting. I will speak and everyone will listen. Everyone will return to work following the meeting. I will then check it off my list as a completed task. My supervisors will see that I am in communication with my staff. Rinse and repeat next Monday.

17. Too much technology is harming interactions.

Sales and customer loyalty can fall when technology is tapped as the go-to solution to people problems. Technology can never fix the perceptions of deception and avoidance by your company. It only serves as a barrier between marketing campaigns and experiences that lead customers to believe they have been hoodwinked.

18. Transitions are frequent and poorly executed.

Learning has evaporated and turnover is high. Training has become unclear and incomplete. Policies and procedures are in a constant state of flux. Each new employee has a lower and lower probability of succeeding.

19. Checks and balances are weak.

Nepotism has fueled organizational inconsistencies. Politics transcend sound business practice. The company earns a watered down meaning in the marketplace and loses respect with employees.

20. Change is made for the sake of change.

Anyone can make things more complicated. But its a lot more difficult to simplify. The experimentation of button pushing leaders can lead to declines or even business failure.

Loss of Unity

“Just as sure as each knot on a fisherman’s net does not physically connect so far as each knot forms continuous connection to make the whole -which works perfectly; know that in the broader picture of life, all things are connected, including you. Even when you feel otherwise disconnected from another — the whole always works perfectly.” ― Gillian Duce

21. A hyperactive rumor mill runs 24/7.

A lack of transparency leads employees to question many things. But whisper mode can be destructive. Especially when the information being conveyed about the company or a person is untrue.

22. The workforce is disconnected.

Employees can become strangers in their own workplace. Even if they spend more time there than with family. A disconnect from others means a lack of opportunities for growth and meaningful work.

23. Multi-generational conflict is elevated.

Individuals have different core values. Each age group will try to escalate and assert its position to promote its own values; however, when company values are unclear or biased, it can be expected generations will clash.

24. Differences are dividing work groups.

Department A knows what it needs from other departments to complete its own tasks. But it may not understand how other departments depend upon it. Broken links in the chain reduce the chance of good working relationships.

25. The culture can be characterized as apathetic.

What happens when employees stop thinking, feeling or caring about anything in the workplace? When they stop believing in new possibilities? When mediocrity becomes the norm? An apathetic culture can be considered the most serious threat to relevancy.

Ever watched crabs try to escape from a bucket? They get pulled down by the other crabs. “If I can’t have something, neither can you.”

If the crabs worked together they might escape. But instead their actions help maintain the irrelevant status quo. Who’s pulling down others in your organization and who is offering to give others a boost?

So is your company becoming irrelevant? Take the time to pause and candidly assess how many of these 25 warning signs you encounter, using a simple Yes or No for each item. But don’t take your own word for it. Ask other stakeholders for their opinion too. Then take steps to increase relevance. Your reputation matters!

I help nonprofits break boundaries to create uncommon outcomes. | markctiti.com

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