The practice of organization development has assumed increased attention as a precondition for the sustainability of businesses. OD has become an undoubted practice for resolving most of the corporate challenges prevalent in the modern VUCA business environment. The creation of a strong and high-performing organization is directly related to the extent of management innovation and the proportion of investment made in developing and implementing OD interventions. The structure of the modern corporation is such that the board and C-suite leaders are involved in the oversight, strategic thinking and strategic leadership functions of the organization. The lower level employees undertake the operational roles and responsibilities. Professional managers drive the development and implementation of OD initiatives and interventions. Mission-critical managers ‘make it happen’ in terms of developing and implementing OD practices and principles, but they need leadership buy-in and the cooperation, commitment and engagement of employees. The collaborative environment across the organization structure is essential for management innovation – from both institutional, fashion, cultural, and rational perspectives.

There is an increasing peril of ‘mission-critical manager withdrawal behavior’ in the modern corporation. This dilemma leads to the complex agency problem and increasing agency costs. Most of OD interventions fail when mission-critical managers lack the commitment to further organization goals and objectives.

What are some of the factors stifling management innovation in developing, implementing and monitoring OD initiatives and interventions?

Below are some of the factors leading to the withdrawal behavior of mission-critical managers in the modern corporation.

1. Pressure to drive performance “now”

The current economic environment places much emphasis on increasing productivity in order to survive. Results, Results, Results. Corporate leaders are therefore tightening controls and asking employees to do more in less time. Most employers are paying less attention to the development and satisfaction of their employees. Leaders are building strategies driven by weekly, monthly or quarterly performance and neglecting quality and values of the people. The message that dominates most corporate meetings is only about Achieving Targets, Targets, Targets. Mission-critical managers therefore withdraw – “we just need to execute and achieve imposed targets”. The notion of execution ‘now’ is extremely violent as managers will start executing on people. This contradicts management innovation principles as managers will start working in silos. ‘Forget about systems thinking. I have to achieve my department’s targets’.

Execution fuels antagonism across business units, work teams and individuals. The misguided notion of driving performance ‘now’ undermines the fundamental functions of management due to its extreme and exclusive inclination towards execution. The strategy, structure and systems of leadership in most organizations have reduced management to mere administration due to the tendency to promote and celebrate ivory tower planning. The seemingly professional manager is now the ‘messenger’ of the board and C-suite leaders. The only proof that the ‘professional manager’ holds to confirm the management role is the glamorized business card and email signature. The responsibilities and what hoes into the email is dictated by the senior leaders. The mission critical manager is forced to neglect fundamental OD interventions and focus on driving ‘performance’. This makes the mind subservient and extremely dull.

2. Misinformed employee evaluation and reward systems

People drive organization development initiatives and interventions when the environment promotes creativity and innovativeness. The increased demand for productivity leads to an intense focus on short-term results at the expense of all else. In most organizations, managers and employees are being evaluated on external and short-term results but these do not really measure anything of value for the longevity of the company. These external and short-term measures get tied to rewards and incentives and start to transform behavior in a negative way. Mission-critical managers withdraw. Some of the commonly rewarded measures are sales, profit, and cost saving. Though these measures are valuable, it is the single-minded focus on these external results that lead organizations to miss the underlying dynamics that support high-performance. Other equally important measures that are not rewarded or celebrated include employee loyalty, employee commitment, innovativeness, and customer loyalty.

3. Perpetuating cultures of shame

Culture drives high performing organizations. It is the failure to design and clearly define guiding principles and values that leads to managers’ withdrawal from prioritizing OD interventions. There is a direct link between culture and organizational performance. The existence and perpetuation of under-performing cultures limits the effectiveness of OD initiatives and interventions through stifling innovation, undermining engagement and thwarting development. Examples of cultures of shame include predatory cultures, frozen cultures, chaotic cultures, political cultures, and bureaucratic cultures.

Predatory cultures are exploitative to the marketplace, and punitive and retaliatory in the workplace. Such cultures foster an alienating work environment. A frozen culture is characterized by gridlocks, denial, authoritarianism, non-response to change and extreme risk-taking aversion. Frozen cultures are extremely behind the change curve, are reactive and as such play catch-up to competitors. Chaotic cultures are fragmented, unfocused, and lack coherence of mission and operational activities. There is chaos for influence, resources and customers. Political cultures are characterized by internal jockeying for influence, turf and career advancement. Such cultures are balkanized and retaliatory, and there is no well-defined mission. Bureaucratic cultures are rigid, procedural, regimented and authoritarian while demanding conformity.

Cultures of shame are repugnant to management innovation and OD principles as they perpetuate non-value adding conditioning, misinformed conformity, irresponsible compulsion, and lack of confidence among work groups, mission-critical managers, and employees. Managers withdraw because sensitivity can never be awakened through conditioning, conformity and compulsion. These elements stifle management innovation because they breed fear and antagonism.

4. Misaligned Training and education programmes

Despite the understanding that OD is not normative, most of the leadership, management and continuing professional development programmes focus on learning about things – they follow cut-and-dried principles. The programmes teach people what to think and NOT how to think. There is an increased focus on the mere cultivation of capacity and efficiency among corporate members. The accumulation of facts and knowledge, and the development of capacity have deprived individuals, work teams, and corporations of integrated action. Most of the training and education programmes merely reviews ideals, principles and methods without bringing everything into praxis. Ideals have no place in OD for they prevent the comprehension of the present. Mission-critical managers understand that idealists are mechanical and hence efficient but not effective. OD is not normative, hence the significance of discovery and prediction techniques evident in Appreciative Inquiry (AI), action research and action planning methodologies.

5. Chocolate people dilemma

The challenge of employee split personality and impression management affect the behavior of mission-critical managers. Authenticity is a key value in effective management innovation, OD and leadership development. The executionary call of the formal organization seems to force people to alter their personality by acting more aggressively than usual or being uncharacteristically taciturn. Employees at all levels of the organization face the split personality phenomenon due to concerns over promotion, lack of self-confidence, and approval addiction. Impression management undermines individual engagement and reduces potential.

6. Corporate complacency

Mission-critical managers have a long-term view of the corporation. Most businesses become complacent after gaining short-term profits. Praised companies celebrate their victory and admire their business models without a consideration of the changing environment. Some organizations lack reliable tools for performance assessment, hence they declare victory prematurely or claim progress without delving into the particulars or comparing themselves with others. Some organizations derive performance measures from strategy, signaling a fundamental misunderstanding of the purpose of measurement and the role of strategy. Most corporate strategies are dominated by lists of improvement activities and management initiatives, such as grow market share, extend the product range, seek new distribution channels.

7. Talent illiquidity in the labor market

Despite the rise in the number of graduating students from various colleges and universities, there is an increasing illiquidity of mission-critical managers in the labor market. It is increasingly becoming difficult to hire skilled people. The organizations should develop customized career models and programs that drive deeper levels of professional skills. To build high-performing organization there should be skills support across functions and work teams.

8. Passion larceny and the growth of energy vampires in the workplace

Most managers initially exude positive energy, passion and commitment to holistically drive performance but they are quickly robbed by the organization’s strategy, structure, systems, staff, skills, style, and shared values. A culture that promotes negativity among work teams nurtures energy vampires and necessitate passion larceny among mission-critical managers. Energy vampires are unfocused, fearful, devoid of affection, complacent, and hopelessly apathetic. Energy vampires are averse to creativity and team cohesion.

In the presence of these factors in the workplace, mission-critical managers withdraw through complacency or exit. Management innovation is a precondition to thrive; however, it needs the engagement and commitment of managers and all other work teams

What should organizations do to ensure the mission-critical managers stay and flower?

  • Institute and system to discover and predict signs of withdrawal among organizational members. Identifying barriers to management innovation improves chances of success
  • Develop career models and programmes to drive deeper levels of professional skills, identify cultural gaps in the workforce and filling them to build a culture of learning and knowledge-sharing, revamping leadership development to build the next generation leaders. Ensure the adoption of social networking methodologies to drive deeper communication and collaboration among teams.
  • Refine approaches to organizing the enterprise and build strong organizations. This demands the application of OD models and approaches • Cultivate a culture of empowerment and responsibility towards solving problems as they surface
  • Adopt high performing cultures. These cultures of change include service cultures, new age cultures. These should be supported by right sponsorship, new goals, widespread involvement and buy-in.
  • Build strategy driven by quality and values of the people rather than quarterly performance.
  • Promote Business Process Reengineering (BPR) methodologies
  • Develop a business model to gain a comprehensive and realistic understanding on how to do business. This will involve a reality based process for thinking and executing business activities. Avoid pens of anxiety fueled by misinformation, no-information or rose-colored information.
  • Adopt a model of institution building premised on systems thinking, strategic thinking, shared vision, empowerment, information flow, emotional maturity, learning and synergy.
  • Devise an integrated Human Resource Management System that unifies all members of the organizationli>
  • Devise a Performance Management System that is integrative and focuses all members on a common objective.
  • Author:

    Justine Chinoperekweyi, Ph.D., Director & Academic Dean - Centre for Organization Leadership & Development (COLD)

    The Centre for Organization Leadership & Development (COLD) is a Zimbabwe incorporated management consultancy and vocational education & training institution. We are a global learning organization that moves organizations, work teams and individuals up the ladder of growth continually. COLD is an organization leadership & development institution with a commitment to building effective organizations through training and education of individuals, teams, leaders and aspiring leaders; and restructuring or reengineering organizations for growth and sustainability. We are an organization that facilitates effective knowledge transfer to improve plans, processes, people and performance in organizations. We endeavor to offer organization developement courses that are relevant and transformational through our competency-based curriculum. For more information, contact us at Or visit our website at