The Consequences of Organ Failure: Understanding Business Risks and Impacts (Part 2)

Organ Failure

We’re acutely aware of the toll illness or being ‘off colour’ can take on our lives and capabilities to function or perform. Yet, when faced with organ failure, swift action and prioritisation become paramount. In the intricate ecosystem of the business world, akin to the complexity of the human body, the malfunction of even a single component—akin to an organ—can trigger cascading effects. Expanding on the analogy introduced in my previous blog, where we likened a business to a living organism, let’s explore the inherent risks and repercussions when one of its vital ‘organs’ falters, highlighting the critical significance of proactive management in averting such crises.

The Ripple Effect of Dysfunction

Imagine a scenario where one of the vital organs within your business – let’s say its digestive system, the stomach, that represents operations and processes – begins to malfunction. A breakdown in operations and processes can be likened to a digestive system in distress. Bottlenecks, inefficiencies, or errors in production can disrupt the flow of work, leading to delays, increased costs, and compromised quality. Whether it’s a glitch in technology, a shortage of skilled labour, or inadequate resource allocation, such operational challenges can undermine the business’s ability to deliver on its promises to customers and stakeholders.

It is important to pay attention to if the operations and processes within your business are setting your people up for success, or are they creating internal challenges that are impeding our peoples abilities to perform their roles effectively to meet expectations.

There can be both internal and external influences that can affect the business, so ensuring you understand how your approach is affecting the businesses health is important. Perhaps there’s a breakdown in the supply chain, resulting in delays in product delivery or shortages in inventory. This disruption can quickly cascade throughout the organisation, leading to decreased productivity, dissatisfied customers, and ultimately, financial losses.

Real World Example: There are many examples of operational dysfunction within businesses, and continuing with the supply-chain example, there is a lot that can be learned from the supermarket giants, Coles and Woolworths, as they have been making headlines, offering a number of key learnings that have resulted in tarnishing their credibility and trust, and exposing what appears to be a poor leadership attitude.

Leadership: Steering Through Stormy Seas

Similarly, if the brain of the organisation – its leadership – is not functioning effectively, the entire business may veer off course. Poor decision-making, lack of strategic vision, poor attitudes, or internal conflicts among leadership can sow confusion and discord throughout the organisation. Without strong leadership to navigate through challenges and uncertainties, the business may struggle to adapt and remain competitive in an ever-evolving market landscape.

Just as the brain is critical for the body, leadership is key in any organisation and must start at the top with the Board and Executive Team, ensuring there is cohesiveness and alignment.  Each member of the leadership team must embody the heart (organisational identity) of the business, because if there appears to be misalignment between the brain (leadership) and the heart (organisational identity), that flows through the entire business and creates conflict and disruption. This misalignment often results in increased risks and incidents to the business, many of which are symptoms of the conflict and can become very costly.

Real World Example: When it comes to steering through stormy seas, the Boeing Saga provides many learning opportunities, as this once globally trusted brand was seen as a hero within aviation and business, and suddenly lost its way when the leadership and priorities changed, with devastating consequences.

Risk Management and Adaptability: Navigating Choppy Waters

In the face of unexpected disruptions or threats – akin to toxins in the bloodstream which also has the potential to compromise organs – effective risk management and adaptability are paramount, just as the liver removes toxins from the body. Failure to anticipate and mitigate risks, whether they be economic downturns, regulatory changes, or cybersecurity breaches, can leave the business vulnerable to significant financial losses, reputational damage, and even legal liabilities. Businesses that lack the agility to pivot and innovate in response to changing market conditions may find themselves left behind by more adaptive competitors.

It is also important to note that risks, like toxins or a virus, can enter the body from many aspects, but once the toxin has entered our bloodstream, it can be carried quickly. Keeping in mind that our bloodstream represents our people. So, depending on our overall health, when a toxin or threat enters the body (the business), it will depend on our people to help fight off the affects. And if we are unhealthy or the threat is severe, it could have implications to multiple organs and our wellbeing. And in severe cases, if can lead to death.

Just as our blood streams to every organ in our body, so do our people touch every aspect of our business, including technology and cybersecurity. As much as we use technology as a tool for our work, it can have significant health implications when things go wrong, and there are always people supporting and caring for those tools.

Real World Example: Every business will encounter threats and risks, and the imperative to remain agile and adaptable applies universally across all sectors. None are immune. Particularly pressing is the ongoing challenge posed by safeguarding a company’s ‘tools of trade,’ with technology at the forefront as organisations grapple with the stark reality of cybersecurity threats. The frequency and severity of such threats and incidents are on a relentless rise. For instance, a notable case is that of Optus, a telecommunications giant in Australia, which faced significant repercussions due to both a major cybersecurity breach and a widespread outage of phone and internet services, underscoring the profound implications of failure in protecting these essential assets.

Communication Breakdowns: A Breath of Fresh Air

The power and importance of communication, just like oxygen, should never be underestimated. All the systems in our body rely on oxygen to make energy. If our blood didn’t move the oxygen we breathe into our organs and tissues, we wouldn’t be able to carry out normal functions such as moving our muscles, digesting food, or thinking.

Clear, open communication is the oxygen that sustains the life of a business. Communication connects us, informs us, though when done poorly, channels break down, misunderstandings arise, conflicts escalate, and trust erodes. Whether its poor internal communication leading to disengaged employees or ineffective external communication resulting in misaligned expectations with customers, suppliers, or investors, the repercussions can be profound and long-lasting.

Just like good breathing practices when you are healthy and aid in supporting your heart, communicating ‘under blue skies’, when it is “business is usual” provides an opportunity to ensure your communication is aligned with your organisational identity. It is also important to make sure that you have a suitable crisis management plan supported by messaging that aligns to your heart, because once a crisis hits, breathing (communication) is key.

Real World Example: It is worth noting is that every example provided within this blog shared another key learning, the reputational impact for poor communication during a time of major incident or crisis. Each organisation was ridiculed for their poor communication and misalignment to their values and purpose, that sit within their organisational identity, their heart.

Cultivating Resilience: Nurturing a Healthy Organism

In conclusion, the analogy of a business as a living organism underscores the importance and interdependencies between organs. Each organ has a key function to ensure the wellbeing and health of the body, of the business.

The importance of proactive risk management, effective leadership, and operational excellence are key components toward taking steps to address vulnerabilities, cultivate resilience and adaptability in the face of adversity.

We will next explore what happens when you start to introduce the wrong blood type into the business body, which is critical considering blood is pumped to all our vital organs and survival.

Part three is looking at, “The Wrong Blood Type: Understanding the Risks of Mismatched Employees in Your Business.”

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