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From Russia, With Frustration

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If you are concerned about productivity in your workplace, you are not alone. Even Russian President Vladimir Putin believes that the principal issue with his nation’s economy is “extreme inefficiency.”

At first glance, the problems in the world’s largest country may make the average American feel thankful. Putin was quoted here as stating:

You can’t start your own business for months. You have to go to every agency with a bribe: to the firemen, the health inspection, the gynecologists. Who don’t you have to go to? It’s just terrible.

Although a depressed economy and an underbelly of corruption seems a world away, are interoffice politics in many offices so different? Starting a new project often requires making the rounds to visit every department and promising favors to well-connected coworkers. Just like the centers of power in Russia, stakeholders in many organizations often have competing objectives and face conflict whenever anyone suggests change.

Vladimir Putin

© Flickr user Global Panorama

President Vladimir Putin urged “far-reaching modernization” of his economy. But you don’t have to live in Russia to recognize that this is a goal that would benefit many businesses, government offices and non-profit organizations in every nation.

Here are some steps any organization can take to move themselves into the “first world” and eliminate political inefficiencies:

  1. Reward success and achievement, not just position. As Putin points out above, politically corrupt organizations reward and pay tribute to an office or position, regardless of their actual role in getting things done. Smart businesses reward employees, whether their office is in the C-suite or next to the mail room, for their actual contributions to the organization.
  2. Value your employees as people. In politicized organizations, managers treat their employees as chips to be bargained with or chess pieces to be moved around a board. Little or no attention is paid to their personal needs or development. Organizations need to value their employees beyond just productivity. That includes noticing personality styles and how people work together. When the organizational goal is to get along, the political goal of get ahead gets minimized, creating a more harmonious and productive atmosphere.
  3. Create engagement outside of work. You can’t force coworkers to be friends, but you can promote that opportunity. Work with HR to schedule fun, social activities after hours (and even a few during regular hours!). Why? This allows everyone in the organization to get the “people first” vantage point mentioned above. Depending on the activity, these activities can also instill teamwork and trust. Even the NFL’s Indianapolis Colts get this dynamic, having recently spent a day playing paintball together instead of practicing.
  4. Create mentorship programs and clear paths toward advancement. Political organizations make advancement a game to be played. The rules are nebulous and incentivize Machiavellian behavior to move up the organizational chart. When those in leadership engage and groom their reports, however, they share the “secret sauce” of advancement and create a model for long-term success within the organization.
  5. Everyone wins…and loses. Political organizations reward the close, loyal followers in good times and protect the “inner circle” during times of trouble. That creates a culture where employees are perpetually playing a game of “King of the Hill” trying to make their way into that trusted court. Successful organizations share the rewards and bonuses that come with a job well done. And when things get tight, the management tightens their belt along with everyone else.

It’s not just government bureaucracies that have problems with disorganization and corruption. Business consultants can help with process improvement just about everywhere. Even if you’re thousands of miles from Moscow.

If your company wants to improve business processes by engaging all stakeholders, consider the business consultants at AccelaWork. We’re interested in cutting through red tape and procedural challenges to help you be the best.

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