Has "U-itis" Crept Into Your Organization?

by Kevin Bushey - Date: 2008-08-11 - Word Count: 656 Share This!

The 4 letters making up the string "itis" are used quite frequently in the context of ailments in our modern medicine terminology. Sinusitis, laryngitis, bronchitis are all familiar medical conditions with "itis" in the spelling. "Itis" comes from New Latin and indicates inflammation or of inflammatory disease. This article is about the inflammation or the presence of an inflammatory problem found in organizations of all shapes, sizes and complexity.

In modern organizations throughout the world, there are any number of leadership factors and complexities that can impact its strategy, design and culture. This article focuses on three major elements that can have a debilitating impact on an organization's ability to grow, evolve and keep talented employees engaged in accomplishing the organization's success as well as their own. These three elements all begin with the letter "U", and so by lumping them together, I have coined the term,"U-itus". The three elements are Underutilized, Underappreciated, and Undervalued.
What I am referring to is the inflammation that impacts a company, organization or group of people who work together because leadership allows these three elements to exist as opposed to working to alleviate them from their environment.

Many professional performance and business coaches will tell you that your employees are your business. This is even truer today than ever before due to the speed of knowledge and technology that supports it. We are seeing huge amounts of data, ideas, and creative thought being shared and assembled in a way that would boggle the mind of even a great thinker like Einstein. In the information era we live in, we now have the ability for anyone to create a new idea, post it in a high speed medium, and be an instant expert literally in seconds because of that speed in cyberspace.

So what does that mean in today's work environment? It now means that idea creation, knowledge sharing, and contributions by all workers are no longer limited to only the managers and leaders of organizations (the power brokers). The old adage, knowledge is power, is being replaced with collaboration, content management and matrix groups that come together to identify and solve problems and through their collective efforts, they are empowered to be utilized, appreciated and valued. But as this new culture is rapidly developing, we still see remnants of old systems that allow the antithesis of these elements to infect the workplace.

The old rules under hierarchical systems, such as formal org charts, pecking order, management titles and corner office layouts for the organization elite, are competing mightily with the new order of workers who don't fit the "old molds". Those groups struggling the most are the 50+ age groups (who typically are the leaders).

For those over 60, it is even more of a challenge since many of these folks did not grow up on Nintendo, Macs, or even owned an Osborne (the first PCs on the market). The business schools of the 60s and 70s were replete with Drucker, Hawthorne studies,Maslow, industrial design, manufacturing and other formal hierarchical approaches to modern day management. The invention of the PC changed this centralized management approach forever. What used to be knowledge only available to the owner and senior leaders can now be decentralized and shared with every worker in an organization who has the computer skills to comprehend it. Today's technology allows them to work anywhere, anytime and be connected with mobile devices like a blackberry, cell phone or PDA. For the younger crowds, the genxrs, the millennials and younger, their life is all about connectivity, whether it's in the work setting or social networking, or a combination of both.

So if the medium to create, share, and change knowledge has evolved, has our management style evolved too? Are we allowing the worker to succeed through leveraged technology and with the presence of a culture that utilizes, appreciates and values their contributions? That is our management challenge today, re-align lest "U-itis" creep in.

Related Tags: leader, human resources, retention, employee retention, information sharing, knowledge management

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