Does Your Organization Have a Learning Disability – Disability # 2 – The Enemy is Out There


My previous article I started with the first of seven learning disabilities identified by Peter Senge in his book ‘The Fifth Discipline.’ An organization’s success is usually limited due to the learning disabilities found within it. These learning disabilities keep companies repeating the same mistakes time and again and prevent them from taking advantage of new opportunities.

“The Enemy is Out There’ is not a problem confined to organizations but also to individuals in their daily lives. It is related to the saying ‘A bad workman always blames his tools.’ Nothing is our fault it is always someone else’s.

In an organization this disability can be fatal as marketing blames manufacturing who blames purchasing who blames accounting. Instead of a problem being sorted out someone else is blamed. Blame is easy; it can be passed on and forgotten. However, this is never going to solve the problem and let the organization thrive.

Think of a sales situation. The sales team goes out to sell the company’s widget to a new customer but instead they come back empty handed. The company was dependent on this sale so everyone wants to know why it wasn’t successful. Sales blames marketing as they say the prospect thought the widget solved another problem they had and worked a different way. Marketing blames design as they say that is what they were told. Design blames manufacture as they say the widget obviously wasn’t made correctly. Manufacture blames purchasing saying the wrong parts were bought to make the widget. This pass the blame keeps going round until no one has any idea what the problem was or why the prospect didn’t buy the widget.

To solve a problem someone needs to take ownership of it. They need to make it theirs and then strive to find the best solution. If the solution lands up on their doorstep then changes should be embraced and not avoided. The whole organization benefits if there is collaboration between the departments and there is a common vision of the desired outcome.

The ‘Enemy is Out There’ is not confined to passing the blame within the organization but can also be used to blame external factors for our lack of success. Think of the airlines that blame the rising price of fuel for their lack of success. How then is Virgin or SouthWest operating a successful airline? The Enemy can be government regulations, expensive labor, foreign companies, the weather or any other excuse we can think of. When blaming someone or something else we should remember that there is always another company that doesn’t seem to be affected by this enemy.

The more we take responsibility for our current situation and work as a team to find a solution the more successful we will be. Individuals and organizations have thrived in the midst of enormous adversity. Look for possibilities and solutions and strive to achieve your shared vision.

Remember that the Enemy will only affect you as much as you let it.

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