Friday, November 15, 2013

The Price of Success

I have not blogged for a couple of days mainly because I have been in shock. I still am.

Occasionally I discuss on these pages various aspects of my work, moderately modified to maintain anonymity. Probably one aspect of my job, though, that has not been made clear is that we are two intertwined organizations, a joint venture of sorts. Let us call them Company A and Company B. My boss and I work for Company B, but my boss reports to the CEO of Company A. (It's a bit complicated, so I hope I can explain how my organization works well enough to make my shock understandable.)

For the past four years, when I was pushed into the door of this company where I had worked many years ago but had no intention of returning until God decided otherwise (click here to see my post about this), I have been happy. I have felt that whatever mission God had for me here was likely being fulfilled as I watched a cranky, sometimes-failing-sometimes-succeeding division chipper up and turn into a happy and highly successful team. I have been able to develop an attitude of servant leadership among the junior and senior managers that has contributed not only to our success but also to stress-proofing us as we have taken on one new project after another, recently reaching the point of 50 major projects under my supervision. To service those projects, we have grown by 400% in the four years. In doing so, we have achieved international renown in our field, some in very glitzy ways. We have our fingers in more than 300 pies internationally, and more and more people want our recipes, figuratively speaking.

Some Company A employees work for me; about 10% of my employees are from Company A. Company A employees are the primary implementers of policy in our organization; they also hold the two top managerial slots in the organization. Company B, to which I belong, are the do-ers and the people with the skill sets that are needed for the nitty-gritty decision-making, the strategic planning, and the idea generation. It is the Company B employees who have made this organization what it is. We were a great team, it seemed, with each of us working according to our skill set and contributing in the ways in which we know how. No one pays attention to who works for Company A and who for Company B.

As a result of this harmonious and skilled work, my division in particular has garnered some positive and glitzy international press recently. (Were I to reveal where I work, many of you may have seen the press, but in addition to Lizzie's wanting our family to remain somewhat anonymous -- I don't do a completely good job at that -- there are things about my job that I am not allowed to reveal).

Could anything be better? A job where I know I am supposed to be. Employees who truly love each other and work as a team. The opportunity to make a meaningful contribution to the organization and to the international community on a regular basis. A boss who values my work. Actually, a stellar reputation in the organization and among clients -- not earned by myself, heavens, no, but rather a matter of my receiving the undeserved benefit of the extraordinary work done by my employees (all I do is make it possible for them to do their jobs). Bonuses and awards where available. Yes, ideal, it would seem. Four years of ideal.

Then, wham!, Tuesday my boss, who works for Company B as I do, called an urgent meeting. Company A wanted more of the action and plans an extensive reorganization. Well, not all that extensive. Just the fractioning of my organization into pieces. Two of the other three divisions get major chunks. One gets the most successful programs I have. Another gets the exciting new programs about to take wing. The glitz gets to stay with me, but now I will report to a Company A executive with no experience in the field. He will call make the decisions and set the policies. My job will be to follow through whether or not his policies will lead to better products or keep people happily employed.

Now fortune has become misfortune. Unfortunately, when envy stalks, it is drawn to the successful, and that becomes unfortunate for the successful.

I see many problems with this reorganization. Dividing my growing organization -- I oversee more than 300 locations -- makes some sense, and the senior managers within it had been ready to propose, after our last strategic planning session, to split it into two divisions based on our roughly two sets of products and programs, with the new division headed by our most competent senior managing. Fractioning the division, however, so that every division director in our organization gets a "piece of gold" to add to a money pot that he has not begun yet to fill or for which he has not skill set to manage, makes no sense. That is not equity; that is foolishness. My competent manager gets buried, and my hands get tied. The motivation behind it? Ego. Of Company A top managers.

I truly could care less about the international attention. For the most part, I deflect it upward to those above me who relish it. With recent news releases and highly visible activities, the top management in both Company A and Company B are tripping over themselves and bumping into each other while trying to garner honors and take credit for the success of my programs. I have stood back and watched, somewhat in amusement, grown men acting like little boys at a kindergarten graduation.

Now, however, with the planned power grab (again, I don't care about the power; I care about being able to continue doing a successful job and supporting my employees), I am not in a position where I am choosing to stand back and watch; I am being pushed back to watch. The worst aspect of this situation is that the synergy among my programs that have made the division successful will be eviscerated by the reorganization. There are dozens, if not hundreds, of studies that show the most dangerous period of time for a business is when it grows too quickly. Unless very wise leadership is applied, the up-to-then successful business collapses. I don't foresee a complete collapse, but I do foresee an implosion, one that I am helpless to stop because the greed and ego of the essentially one (well placed) Company A senior leader is driving him to reject any input that implies that he might be wandering around town unclothed, like the nude king of fairy-tale fame. I have been presented with essentially a fait accompli.

Today brought no relief. Just the opposite. My assistant for plans and execution was called to headquarters to draw up the new organizational chart. He will be working on it some more there tomorrow. Then he and I will finalize it together. He asked me today what I plan to do because he knows that I am a change-maker and, as the military would say, a line officer, not an implementer and staff officer. My line officer position is being taken, and I am being pushed in a staff officer job, and that is not where my skill set lies. I told him that I would probably look for another job.

Ah, there's the rub, though! God put me in this job. Am I supposed to stay in it through this change, which is planned to take as long as two years to fully implement? Initially and not later? Or, perhaps, have I fulfilled my tasking and can move on? I wish I knew!

One thing I know for sure. If this is where God wants me, then this is where I will be. Either because I acquiesce or because, like Jonah, I will be thrown back to where God has shown me that I am supposed to be. If, on the other hand, I have completed my tasking, I am certain that God will release me to go on to something less stressful, lead me to a better organization, or perhaps even give me a new tasking. The bottom line is that it has to be what God wants. If I know that he wants me to continue on, then I will do so and will find a way to be happy about it. The hard part is the not knowing; the hard part is the waiting. Fortunately, I am not alone. I can make it, with the Help at hand, through the hard part.

And there you have it. Chapter one in a new soap opera. Stay tuned, and I will present the next chapters as they are written.

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