In this fourth part our 12-part series on the qualities of high-performing teams, we examine how managing organizational integrity propels effectiveness.

The Workaround

The amount of processes, practices, systems, and functional and leadership groups people must navigate to do their jobs in large organizations is vast. In my experience, people tend to adapt themselves to the companies they work for and all these structures that come with them. If, however, something about these structures doesn’t work, people often find a way to get their job done despite them. The word workaround describes this task perfectly.

It is not a stretch to say sometimes people feel their entire job is a workaround as they try to accomplish things that their working environment makes more difficult.

What is Integrity?

Our definition of integrity is doing what you said you were going to do, by when you said you were going to do it and in the manner in which it is expected by you and others.

When these conditions cannot be met, acknowledging the issues and managing the fallout restore integrity.

We refer to workability as integrity. When a company lacks workability in any piece of its business, whether as a function of the behavior of people that constitute the organization, or because of the structures in which people work, we say that company lacks organizational integrity. Breakthrough performance becomes impossible in environments that lack organizational integrity.

The Absence of Integrity in Organizations is Everywhere

Examples of the lack of integrity in organizations include:

  • Meetings starting late;
  • People agreeing to more work than they can effectively manage;
  • Working without a clear understanding of a project’s direction or purpose;
  • Focusing on transaction tasks without addressing strategic issues;
  • Leaving 300 emails in your email inbox, or, not responding to emails when people expect you to;

Breakthroughs Begin with Integrity

You will never find an organization completely in integrity. There will always be something about an organization that doesn’t work. You can, however, begin to embed integrity into your environment.

The Chinese philosopher Laozi is quoted as saying, “the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” Similarly, the task of embedding integrity in large organizations may seem daunting. However, that journey also begins with a simple step: calling out where integrity is lacking.

Doing nothing more than saying something like the following makes a huge difference:

  • “It seems like we have trouble starting meetings on time. Is there something you need help managing so that you can be here on time?” or;
  • “I don’t spend much of my time handling the strategic issues I know you want me to. How can we manage my workload?” or;
  • “There is something about our document review process that doesn’t work. It is causing a backlog in work elsewhere in the company. Any ideas about how we can do things differently?”


*The material on integrity in this article is derived from the work of Werner Erhard and Michael C. Jensen and is used with permission.

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