Stuck in the Flood Mini-Series

Part 6: Are You Stuck in the Flood?

Did you know you can be an expert  paddler and still struggle in a raging river?

Put another way, you can be a good leader and still struggle in a flooding organization.

Since it’s not always easy to recognize the difference between flow and flood—especially when we’ve been working in flooding organizations most of our lives—below are some telling and common indicators of the problem. 

Are any of these common occurrences in your organization?

→   You can get everyone into a meeting because you’re the boss. Yet for everyone else, scheduling is impossible; it takes two weeks for them to schedule a half-hour conversation, and the chances are high that some key people will be missing.

→   You can’t slow down enough to collaborate for half a day, so you settle for an hour every other week.

→   Too many people on the front lines of your organization struggle to connect their work to progress on your big strategic goals.

→   You find yourself thinking, “Everything feels out of control. If only we had a process that everyone had to follow to get things done.”

→   Your primary form of communication is email because you don’t have time to communicate in any other, more effective way. “This problem is so important that we can’t wait to meet in person about it, so we had better send some emails” is common thinking.

→   Documents are used as a replacement for conversation. Important decisions and interactions are reduced to document dumps: “It’s all there. Let me know if you have questions.”

→   You’ve had a headache for the past 10 years. (An executive I worked with actually told me this.)

→   You spend all your days in meetings about work, but you never get around to doing the actual work.

→ You measure success based on how well reality follows your plan instead of how well you adapt your plan as you learn more about reality.

→   You suspect that the data you’re looking at doesn’t tell the real story, but you go through the motions anyway.

→   Everything is green and on track until it’s flaming red and a crisis; nobody feels comfortable saying that things aren’t going well until it’s too late. Then the finger-pointing begins.

→   Nobody ever disagrees out loud, but the implementation reveals that no one was on the same page to begin with.

Are any of these scenarios familiar?

If so, then that’s a clear sign you’re in an organization that is flooding.

When leaders are in the middle of an organizational flood, everything seems like a number one priority, and the overload causes back-to-back crises. For that reason, leaders in a flood tend to stick with management techniques that are supposed to work because it seems like there’s no time to try a different approach, or that there’s too much at stake for experiments. 

Essentially, you stay in the boat with the hole in the bottom because it beats no boat at all.

Rest assured, it is possible to stop the flood. The path forward is simple and pragmatic. 

And I promise, we’ll dig into what that looks like tomorrow.

Stay tuned,


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