Organizational friction

Improve the ability, comfort level and speed at which people do the right thing.

Test yourself Copy to your organization

Skills contained in this skillset:

I understand what is meant by friction

Friction is a force between two surfaces that are sliding, or trying to slide, across each other. For example, when you try to push a book along the floor, friction makes this difficult.

The more friction, the more energy is required to make the object move.

I understand what is meant by organizational friction

Organizational friction is the friction that workers encounter when trying to do their jobs, or when trying to change the way that their jobs are performed.

The amount of organizational friction impacts how quickly the organization can move, the rate of change and how much efforts needs to be applied in order to get stuff done.

I can identify the sources of organizational friction

One way of thinking about the sources of friction, is through a lense of what are we lacking.

If a wheel bearing has trouble moving, we might be lacking grease allowing the wheel bearing to turn with less energy.

In an organizational context, the sources of organizational friction can be broken down into:

  • Lack of alignment
  • Lack of clarity
  • Lack of ability
  • Lack of confidence

Examine the chart below to better understand how these, in turn, can be broken down into specific issues within the organization:

I understand the result of organizational friction

Organizational friction makes people hesitant, reluctant or unable to do the right thing.

This in turn makes people procrastinate the work they should be doing, make decisions and exhert behaviour which is not in best interest of the organization, or spend more time solving tasks.

I understand how to proactively identify organizational friction

Unlike reactive leaders, who purely rely on appearnt signs of frustration to understand where friction resides, proactive leaders actively go looking for and map out organizational friction.

To understand organizational friction, we need to map out

  • Skills: How well do people master the skills required to excel in their roles?
  • Opinions: What do people feel and think about different aspects of their work, and the work of others?
  • Familiarity: How comfortable are people with what is expected of them?

Here are some data-driven tools you could use to uncover and improve your understanding of these aspects:

Roles benefiting from this skillset

Chief Executive Officer (CEO)

Executive Leadership stage

Team leader

Management Organizational development Leadership stage Team management Organizational health