Organizational Nirvana

Published: August 21, 2013

Gallup's recent employee engagement data paints a pessimistic picture of the modern workplace with more than seven out of ten workers either disengaged ("sleepwalking") or actively disengaged ("toxic"). That leaves a courageous minority of passionate talent who would run through a wall for your organization. Lost in the metrics are the rare organizations that have devoted themselves to a culture of 100% engagement - no sleepwalkers or poison.

One such team in Chicago’s western suburbs has spent the past two years seeking “organizational nirvana.” Organizational nirvana occurs when every member of the team is physically, emotionally, and intellectually committed to thriving in their role on behalf of the organization’s vision. No exceptions. Of course, the larger the team, the harder it is to achieve 100% engagement. Most organizations are satisfied with a 90/10 or even an 80/20 split. Most workplaces can manage around ten or twenty percent of their talent trying to undermine the mission. This keeps H.R. departments on their toes.

The airline industry and, less successfully, the healthcare industry seeks zero-error. When mistakes occur, a blend of full disclosure, root cause analysis, and proactive risk reduction gets deployed to lessen the chance of the error being repeated. It is an eternal continuous improvement model. Some organizations apply the same approach to the recruitment, development, and retention of their talent. Only the engaged survive.

These teams exist. This is not a myth or a fantasy. Organizational nirvana happens by deliberate choice cascading from leadership throughout the culture. It’s rooted in aligned vision and realized by accountability. It grows with the energy of innovation and thrives with the resilience of adaptation. If you are in a position to shape such a team, get to work. If you dream of contributing to a team like this, join that leader or ignite your own.

Photo of Steve Ritter, the co-founder of The Center for Team Excellence

Steve Ritter

Steve Ritter is an internationally recognized expert on team dynamics whose clients include Fortune 500 companies, professional sports teams, and many educational organizations. He is on the faculty of the Center for Professional Excellence at Elmhurst College where he earned the President's Award for Excellence in Teaching. Steve is the former Senior Vice President, Director of Human Resources at Leaders Bank, named the #1 Best Place to Work in Illinois in 2006 and winner of the American Psychological Association's Psychologically Healthy Workplace Award in 2010. Steve provides ongoing workplace culture consultation to many thriving companies including Kraft Foods, Advocate Health Care, Kellogg's, the Chicago White Sox, AthletiCo, and Northwestern Mutual Financial Network.