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The Lesson of Bird Flu and Swine Flu for Organizations

We all probably remember the worldwide concern that erupted over avian flu. That was going to be the next pandemic. Scientists were sure of that fact! Governments poured billions into working on a vaccine, developing a crisis plan, and other well-documented spending forays. Essentially, the whole world, or at least 25% of it was going to come to an end.

Has avian flu become the next pandemic? Not yet! Unfortunately, something that was completely missed, swine flu, has made all of the recent headlines. Over 100 people have died so far in Mexico, and cases are showing up in the US.

On a website devoted to psychologically healthy workplace practices, you might be wondering, “What does this have to do with organizations?” Well, the answer is quite simple. Be careful when you latch on to some new concern or some new management fad, because it might not be the “pandemic” approach!

We are constantly bombarded with new or re-packaged perspectives, from emotional intelligence to total quality management to servant leadership, and on and on. Some companies invest millions of dollars integrating such programs, often by lining the pocket of a consulting company that provides these specialized services. Yet, how many of these approaches have received true scientific study, demonstrating that they will yield the desired results over a long period of time? Some of them have, but many of them have not!

How many companies invested in the strategies and approaches laid out in Good to Great? And how many of these companies are aware that two articles in the Academy of Management Perspectives in 2008 suggested that, at best, greatness was fleeting? Many of the companies showcased were no longer performing greatly, which calls into question the sustainability of any prescriptive approach.

The key point here is not that avian flu is completely irrelevant, that Jim Collins had it wrong, or that new approaches are automatically bad. It’s just that organizations need to be skeptical when it comes to new approaches, conducting sufficient research before implementing possible “fads.” If you are a multi-national corporation with a lot of slack financial resources, the fads might hurt, but they won’t kill. But, if you are a medium-sized company, a small business, or a non-profit organization, putting all your eggs into the current management fad might be the last mistake you ever get to make with your organization.

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Dr. Matt Grawitch published on April 28, 2009 11:01 AM.

Volunteerism Has Its Perks was the previous entry in this blog.

Will the H1N1 Flu Change the Way We Work? is the next entry in this blog.

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