In my previous post, I explored the many ways mediocrity wastes billions of dollars in organizations. The good-enough culture flows down from the top of the organization. It takes root when leaders believe that a “good-enough” approach is acceptable.
Typically, leaders who have the impression that life for them is rewarding enough don’t see the need to work to make things better for everyone else. Leaders with a self-focused mindset have one or more of the following issues:
- Apathy: There is no real concern for what the others in the organization endure.
- Laziness: There is no felt need to give more than an adequate effort. Adequate often seems heroic to the lazy mind.
- Disengagement: There is not enough involvement with staff or specific operations to know that troubles exist. Worse yet, the leader intentionally avoids knowledge of problems.
- Greed: There is less monetary reward for the upper echelon if more resources are spent on addressing system shortcomings. This is the age-old deception of not believing a sacrifice today pays rewards tomorrow.
- Fear of failure: There is too much risk seen in trying something that could make things worse. This fear emanates from a lack of wisdom or confidence.
- Pride: There is a need to preserve image by avoiding the acknowledgment of a problem.
- Ignorance: There is no pressing desire to know how the operation works, to grasp how it could be better.
- Resentment: There is a dislike of bad news and the people who bring it. And of course, nothing can be improved if it’s not discussed.
Leaders who don’t understand the power of excellence don’t care enough about pursuing it. This lack of caring is what author Subir Chowdhury claims is the main cause of a good-enough culture, in his book, The Difference: When Good Enough Isn’t Enough (Penguin Random House, 2017).
When leaders don’t care enough about being the best they can be, why would staff? Each layer in the organization takes its cue from the one above, and all of them ultimately from the top. Uncaring leaders set a strong example that caring is not needed by anyone. The result is mediocrity at best, total failure at worst. Leaders who are excellence-minded see both of these as failure.