The Danger of Healthy Competition

“It was worse than I thought,” Reggie stated flatly. “What I didn’t realize when I opened up this little fracas, was that the competition started long ago. I nosed around some of my sources. It’s been a dysfunctional fight for the past six months, with not only my three internal candidates, but two others. They are all spread across three departments, so I never saw it.”

“What’s been going on?” I asked.

“Mostly, it’s the subtle non-cooperation of one department with another. Convenient delays, rough hand-offs, missing information. Nothing malicious or brazen, but I have five people working against each other, working against the company.”

“Who’s the culprit?”

Reggie’s demeanor changed. He sat straight up in his chair. The nerve was struck. Chin down, looking over his glasses, furrowed brow, he finally spoke. “I’m the culprit. I tried to create a little healthy competition, but what I created was an environment where individual agendas were more important that teamwork. I created intense internal focus within each department, when I need cooperation between departments.”

“How do we fix it?”

“First, we have to start with the culprit,” Reggie shrugged. “And that would be me.”

One thought on “The Danger of Healthy Competition

  1. Kevin Pickhardt

    Tom – an interesting blog on a subject I was just speaking about with another. It has been my experience that once an organization gets beyond about 5 people (and even that might be generous), cross organizational cooperation needs focus. There doesn’t seem to be a ‘perfect’ organizational structure that can eliminate the problems of incentives and information flow. So, the best we can hope for is to create an organization that puts the challenge where we choose to have it.

    In this case, there is another element you highlight beyond the challenge of cross departmental coordination. If the organization is designed such that each team can thrive and the whole suffer, is that a problem of structure, incentives, context, or all of the above and more?


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