Organizations rise or fall on their leadership – Iceberg of ignorance

Organizations rise or fall on their leadership – Iceberg of ignorance

Leave the bridge and get down in the engine room

It’s often quoted that organizations rise or fall on their leadership. Another quote that is also poignant is one that became common after the First World War, which said that the British Soldiers were “Lions led by Donkeys“ – a phrase popularly used to describe the British infantry of World War I and to blame the generals who led them. The contention is that the brave soldiers (lions) were sent to their deaths by incompetent and indifferent leaders (donkeys).

Is there a parallel between “Lions led by Donkeys” the and modern management? At least there is a need to bring the engine room closer to the bridge.

Iceberg of ignorance

In a study done by Sidney Yoshida – called “The iceberg of ignorance” – found that senior level management is often so far removed from day-to-day business operations that they fail to understand the systems and processes that affect both employees and customers.

Suffering from the “Iceberg of ignorance” or the “Iceberg of arrogance”

The most alarming result of this study suggests that this can have an impact on company profits by as much as 40%.

The study concluded that executive level managers were only aware of 4% of day-to-day problems, department managers were only aware of 9% of problems, employee supervisors knew of 74% of problems but the front-line employees knew 100% of problems that affected the quality of products or services that were being delivered to customers.

The Iceberg of Ignorance - Organizations rise or fall on their leadership

Iceberg of ignorance – Organizations rise or fall on their leadership

The most troubling aspect of these study findings is that the very people who have the responsibility and ability to solve problems seem to be the very ones who don’t even know the problems exist for the employees who are responsible for serving the customer.

What happens if a company is suffering from the iceberg of ignorance

The iceberg of ignorance should be a concern for any company. Left unattended, the iceberg of ignorance leads to employee disengagement, frustration at the front-lines and consequently high attrition and poor business performance.

Go and See – Taking the time to get out on the line and talking with employees is invaluable

Organizations are shadows of their leaders ….. that’s the good news and the bad news! So get down in the engine room before it is to late!

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About The Author

Torben Rick

Experienced senior executive, both at a strategic and operational level, with strong track record in developing, driving and managing business improvement, development and change management. International experience from management positions in Denmark, Germany and Switzerland.

Blog Comments

This is why the communication between all departments from the front line employees along to the the top management level is of great importance. “Organizations are shadows of their leaders” indeed. If the leader is not interested what is happening on the “lower” levels it will be no surprise if the organization occur in a moment that is too late to escape the iceberg.

From the iceberg graphic and the short text on this page the main problem isn’t senior management not knowing what’s happening at the “front line” but the breakdown in communication between “Supervisors” and “Middle” (muddle?) management.

Perhaps it’s not a question of Senior Management having to “get down to the engine room before it’s too late” more a question of Middle Management getting their hands dirty?

Illuminating article

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