The Learning Cafe

Food for Thought | Seven people issues that most organisations struggle with

  • Posted by learningwavenz
  • On August 3, 2017

Right now, I’m working in the private and public sectors, nationally and internationally. And every organization is struggling with some combination of these seven issues.


1.      Organizations don’t know how to – well – organize themselves. Their structures don’t work neither do their leadership practices. Typically I see too many people with too much to do, all reporting to one boss. That leads to:

·        Awful bottlenecks or crises as everything passes up and down the chain of command.

·        Leaders not trusting their reports to make good choices and then disempowering them.

·        Demotivated employees.

Organizational design and development should be top priority; but so many senior leaders haven’t a clue what that means, let alone how to approach it.

2.      Bosses are so swamped that either have no time to focus, or they dither and are then forced to decide under pressure. The result? Everything is both urgent as well as important, and pressure is passed down the line. The net effect? Last-minute-itis, frayed tempers, exhaustion and unnecessary conflict.

3.      Everyone is trying to do more with fewer employees. Which leads to sink-or-swim management. In turn, that often results in unacceptable behavior, increased stress, greater anxiety and an uptick in mental health issues. Sooner or later in some jurisdiction there’s bound to be a public legal case with all the reputational risk that involves.

4.      Employees are expecting and expected to be always on. But no-one makes a good decision when they are tired; research which I did 7 years ago showed that for every hour worked over 44 hours a week, employees become 1% less productive. Humans aren’t robots and pretending we are has a profound impact on confidence, resilience and motivation. Not to mention well-being and happiness.

5.      Productivity is suffering everywhere. New practices are being added to old processes, an impossible ask. You simply can’t add to a priority list without subtracting something if you want people to remain in equilibrium and deliver quality work. Nevertheless, organizations introduce programs which flop and fail because employees at full stretch simply can’t do more and do it well.

6.      Emails are used to tell everyone, everything. Remember telegrams used to charge by the word? If only emails were the same. The more communication tools we have the more we communicate, but not thoughtfully, efficiently or effectively. Neither the top or bottom line are ever affected by answering 300 mails every day. But workplaces are slow to take up social and digital tools that would make everyone’s lives easier.

7.      Working practices are changing. Agile businesses want their contractors, consultants, juniors, part-timers, flexible workers and employees on sabbaticals to have equal voices. That’s tough for those who have benefited from hierarchies, perks and privileges. It means less room for ego and more focus on openness, respect and inquiry.

So, what’s the answer to all this complexity? Ah, that’s a completely different story – but recognition of the status quo is a great first step.


Source: Pryce-Jones, J. (2017). Seven people issues that most organisations struggle with. Retrieved 2 August from