Is a lack of organizational cohesion the missing link in making your organization work? Cohesion is the force or forces that bind an entity together. A lack of cohesion would then be the force or forces that pull an entity apart. Need I say more about the importance of organizational cohesion?
Imagine lining up hundreds of bocce balls into tightly packed rows on a paved street at the top of a hill. The mission is simple: Roll the balls down the hill while maintaining formation. As the balls start to roll, they begin to bang into each other and hit various dips and bumps in the road. They begin to scatter! As you rush to shore up the right flank, the left flank starts to wonder. If you are thinking this would be a nearly impossible task or, at the very least, take all of your efforts, then you are beginning to grasp the concept of cohesion.
You see, the challenge of cohesion is not one of not knowing, but one of not doing (and not because they don’t want to). The bocce balls don’t need to be reminded to go down the hill, they already know. If they aren’t going down the hill, there is likely a very good reason and what they need is help. In our organizations, keeping the organization cohesive means keeping people working together. And unlike bocce balls, the forces that most often try to pull the organization apart are relational. Too often, while organizational leaders are clarifying and posting the mission statement, they are ignoring relational issues all around them. It’s like expecting your marriage to be strong because you hang your marriage certificate where your spouse can see it! Marriages and organizational cohesion are hard work because they are both about maintaining personal relationships.
Organizational cohesion is a top-down leadership issue. Here are the highlights of a cohesive organization:
- Cohesion starts at the top. The Senior Leadership Team needs to have healthy and functional relationships. If the Senior Leadership Team doesn’t maintain a strong bond, it is not likely to exist at lower levels.
- The Senior Leadership Team needs to then engage Team Leaders. Team Leaders at the middle ranks need to be skilled in relationship issues as they will deal with the majority of the people. Not only do they need to be in healthy relationship with each other (horizontally) but also with senior and junior levels (vertically). Arguably, the Team Leaders are the most important players in the cohesion equation.
- Finally, Team Leaders need to foster healthy relationships with and among their team members. Teams need to learn interpersonal skills for resolving issues within their team and with other teams.