We’ve all read of the many benefits of cardiovascular exercise: improved heart health, increased metabolism and energy, weight loss, overall better efficiency of the body’s functions (blood pressure, cholesterol, insulin), decreased stress/psychological benefits . . . the list goes on. Has it ever occurred to you that in the same way exercise has a positive impact on your body, perhaps a bit of “organizational cardio” could strengthen your organization.
Stick with me here. A stagnant organization, much like a stagnant body, is going to be in a state of decline. Maybe it’s not noticeable on a daily or weekly basis, but chances are pretty good that you are going to wake up one day and wonder what happened. So if it’s the case — hypothetically of course — that you as a leader find your organization getting a little soft around the edges, what should you do . . . where do you begin?
First and foremost, you need to get moving. In my experience (and trust me, I have done extensive research on this one) cardio doesn’t just happen — at least not on a regular basis — simply because you understand in theory that it’s good for you. It takes a concerted effort, a plan with clear goals and expectations. And yes, it may feel like a burden when you first start, one more task piled on top of your already overscheduled day . . . but the payoff is worth it, so start with baby steps.
Maybe you begin by tackling the treadmill of systems and processes that tend to bog your organization down. Is there a way to travel the distance in 3 steps instead of 10? Turn your people loose on finding a way to be more efficient and see if their energy level doesn’t move up a notch or two. Or what about starting with the cycles that impact your ultimate outcomes? Have you asked those closest to the front lines how they think you could improve your performance? The adventurous among you might choose to hike through the mountains of obstacles that others place between you and your ultimate mission. There are all kinds of ways you can start. It is up to you as a leader to chart a course, commit to it, and then support your organization as it puts one foot in front of the other.
Sure the effort might cause you to sweat a bit, and your “body” might occasionally push back with twinges of pain that come from waking once-dormant muscles. But in less time than you might imagine, you will start to see changes. Maybe you will lose the organizational weight of redundant layers of effort. The “heart” of your organization will be stronger as the can-do attitude of your staff grows with each little victory. Before you know it, that insurmountable health issue/distance/ goal starts to feel attainable as your momentum continues to build . . .
And it all starts with a daily dose of organizational cardio. Maybe it’s time to get moving.