Organizational Vertigo

Vertigo is a sensation of extreme dizziness that some people get even when the world is entirely stable around them. One type of vertigo is caused by deposits of calcium in the inner ear that throw off a person’s balance. The connection between the person’s ears and the brain is telling them that the world is one way(with the interference of the calcium.) The person’s eyes are telling them that the world is different than what the ears are saying. The brain cannot reconcile the two signals, and the result is spinning, extreme dizziness, a sensation of spinning, and feeling off-balance.

Vertigo In Your Organization

Your organization or project can experience vertigo also. This happens when one group of people experience reality in one way, and another group possesses an entirely different reality. When the two groups have such different experiences, usually they don’t even realize that there can be another reality. What starts to happen is leadership (the centralized control of the organization) has difficulty grasping the one point in the distance that they are moving towards. There might be a strong vision for the future, but with the inputs from different sensors, the world seems to be spinning. And when the world is spinning, it is hard to take the right step forward. 

What To Do?

There are a few different types of vertigo, but for the type that we are discussing, you simply have to admit that there is a problem and deal with it directly. The same is true within your project or organization. If you are having trouble focusing on the right things, even if your vision is strong, it is time to go back to the basics of business. Ask yourself:

  1. Can everyone clearly state the value proposition you are bringing to the customer? Everyone means EVERYONE. Does the HR person know it, the receptionist, the delivery driver, the company who shovels your snow? It isn’t enough that people know what constitutes success for their position; they have to understand what the customer values.
  2. Is each department doing work to make the other departments successful? By putting other departments ahead of your own, people will start to understand the issues and problems that departments have to deal with. This will reduce the dissonance between what Department A feels and Department B feels. When people solve each-other’s problems, there won’t be as much dizziness because everyone will view the world in the same way.
  3. Do people know that they are free to talk about the fact that they aren’t clear on the world around them? You must provide people with the safety to be able to say in a meeting that they don’t understand why something is happening. Everyone must be willing to explain where they are going and how they came to these conclusions. 

Fixing organizational vertigo, just like fixing vertigo in a human, is about aligning the senses so that the brain (or leadership) is receiving consistent signals from all inputs. If your project or organization seems to be spinning, take a look to find out if alignment is an issue is solved.


[This post should not be used as a medical reference. It explains a medical concept simply, in a way that my non-medical mind can understand. Consult a physician to get more details on vertigo and how it affects the brain.]