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Organizational Awareness in Action

Organizational Awareness in Action

by George PitagorskyJuly 18, 2017 Time to read: 3 min.

What does it look like when a leader is skilled in the Organizational Awareness Competency? Here are some examples I’ve seen in my work as a consultant and technology executive.

Communicating to Different Interests

One leader at an international financial institution understood the importance of communicating in a way that addressed the needs of different people in the organization. Each group has its own interests and “language.”

As the executive sponsor for a critical program, he realized that he needed to communicate to a wide array of players, each with their own perspective.

He crafted a message to the board of directors, considering their need for a high-level summary, the ability to delve into details as they saw fit, and a focus on profits and impact on the organization’s strategy. He crafted another communication for the shareholders of the company, considering their interests. Then, he addressed the nuances needed to communicate with the news media, the organization’s executives, leadership at the next levels, and the technologists, clerks, administrators, and other people doing the day-to-day operational activities needed to make the program a success.

Each communication was a true reflection of the program, though, at a level of detail, in a medium and language that was tailored to each role and highlighted issues and concerns relevant to each group.

A leader with organizational awareness uses his or her understanding of the nature of the relationships, hierarchies, and decision-making processes to communicate more effectively.

This leader knew that he was more likely to get buy-in from the various groups and individuals because he communicated in a way that resonated with them. He understood their values and how they made decisions. Buy-in then got him the funding he needed and gave him the ability to manage expectations in a more effective way. Therefore, he could be more successful and respected as a leader. That respect translated into greater effectiveness.

Communication is one primary element of organizational awareness.  Another is the ability to take a systems and process view of the organization.  The effective leader is able, on a day-to-day level, to resolve issues by focusing on their causes. This requires recognizing that those causes are rooted in the organization’s structure, policies, procedures and processes. Leaders skilled at organizational awareness have a greater sense of the bigger picture.  They see issues in the context of the complex interactions among departments, individuals and competing values in play.

Navigating Change  

As a consultant, I worked on a project with an international bank to reengineer the process they used to provide large-scale commercial loans to their clients. The bank’s leadership wanted a more automated system better control the bank’s global credit exposure. The organization dynamics we needed to deal with related to the business process as well as the information technology organization and its involvement.

There were a main IT department was responsible for technology applications for the bank’s central office and relatively autonomous  IT departments in outlying regions –  Europe, Asia, and Latin America. That meant there were siloed groups processing and managing credit related data in different ways.

Organizational awareness enabled us to see the potential for communication and decision-making difficulties between those different players in the IT world.

The bank’s leadership of the recognized that there were large personality and political differences between the IT departments and that it was impossible to reconcile those differences in the short-term. So, we crafted a solution that removed the program from the IT world and put it into a newly organized Product Management office. That office would  define, design and manage the program and coordinate the efforts of all other departments, including the IT departments, and vendors involved.   . The IT organizations were doing a great job individually, but coordination among them was contentious.

The product designers crafted an architecture that enabled continued autonomy among the groups, minimizing change in other business areas, while getting the desired result – comprehensive and accurate data that reflected the global exposure to families of companies, countries and industries.  The IT folks could focus on what they do best, and we took the communication and coordination challenges off their hands.

The use of organizational awareness here prevented what could have been a failed program.  Getting the IT silos to work together to design a new system to replace their existing systems would have taken years of tedious effort and a super-human facilitator.  It is likely that compromises among the IT groups, known for vying with one another for control and influence, would have been sub-optimal. By Understanding the character and the different interests of each department, leaders created a solution that was embraced by all, and resulted in a cost effective, timely outcome.

Recommended reading:

Organizational awareness primerOur new primer series is written by Daniel Goleman, George Pitagorsky, and fellow thought leaders in the field of Emotional Intelligence and research. See our latest release: Organizational Awareness: A Primer for more insights on how this applies in leadership.

Additional primers so far include:

Key Step Media contributing author George Pitagorsky, PMP is a multi-disciplinary coach, consultant, author, and speaker with expertise in project management and performance improvement. He serves as the CIO for a multi-billion dollar division of the NYC Department of Education. He works with people at all levels of organizations to facilitate personal awareness and collaboration in achieving optimal performance.

His work is informed by 40+years practicing Yoga, Tai Chi, and meditation and studying and teaching about integrating mindfulness and world wisdom traditions into daily life.

He is author of The Zen Approach to Project Management, Managing Conflicts in Projects, and his latest release, Managing Expectations: A Mindful Approach to Achieving Success. Regarding The Zen ApproachDaniel Goleman wrote “It’s the Zen that’s been missing in all too many of today’s business books, and George Pitagorsky is the master we’ve needed.”

George works to integrate project and process management, mindful awareness, process thinking, and a clear recognition of practical reality to promote optimal performance. Optimal performance is characterized by the sustained ability to achieve goals and objectives, under changing conditions, with high energy, resiliency, joy, healthy relationships, and a sense of fulfillment.

He has worked with global corporate clients, government agencies, and small- and mid-sized firms in industries as diverse as education, technology, engineering, consulting, banking, and publishing.

As a senior consultant, he has worked with clients globally, including Microsoft, Nokia, Deutsche Bank, Morgan Stanley, Pfizer, Sears, and many others. He is the author of the International Institute for Learning’s PM Foundation self-paced project management training course.

George has practiced yoga and insight meditation since the early 1970’s and teaches at NY Insight Meditation Center (NYIMC). He seamlessly integrates his experience into a practical approach suitable to people in any walk of life. He is a recognized subject matter expert in applying mindfulness meditation and systems thinking to promote optimal performance. He co-developed and leads the five month Conscious Living Conscious Working program, now in its thirteenth year.

He is a regular contributor to Project Times, Project Insight, the Breakthrough Newsletter, his articles at More Than Sound.and you can find

Early in his career, George was a computer programmer and IT systems designer. He co-founded and was Senior VP of Software Design Associates (SDA), an IT systems consulting firm.