Take a six-quart pan. Fill it with water. Put it on the oven. Turn the heat on high. While waiting for the water to reach a rolling boil, catch one mid-sized frog. When the water achieves that boil, toss the frog in. Don't worry; the frog won't get hurt. The shock of the temperature change will compel the amphibian to immediately leap out. It happens every time (unless you cover the pan with its lid after you toss the frog in, in which case I'm sure we'll be seeing your story in an episode of Criminal Minds at some point).

Now refill the same pot with warm water. Put the frog in before turning on the heat. Enjoy watching the frog demonstrate the backstroke. Turn the heat on "low." Every couple of minutes, increase the heat incrementally until the water is boiling. At that point and with apologies to the ASPCA and PETA, you'll have one very dead (and well-done) frog. The gradual change in temperature will go unnoticed by the little guy until it's too late.

What just occurred is called boiled frog syndrome. "Why should I care?," you ask skeptically. Think of the frog as your organization and the water in the pot as the aggregate of external forces and interests (competitors, customers, distributors, suppliers, capital providers) acting on your organization. As incremental change occurs in the speed and magnitude that each of those forces exerts alone, it's easy to ignore it, to regard it as an isolated inconvenience, or to consider the need to respond decisively with skepticism. It's easier to make subtle course corrections, not wanting to rock the organizational boat too much.

The accumulating impact of those forces together and over time, however, overwhelms. Eventually, any passive organization (and the CEO and his/her executive team) will get cooked! It's impossible to ascertain the time or pinpoint the specific reasons for most organizations' death. It happens subtly; it happens incrementally, until the very end. It's almost always insidious, because what happened, how it happened, and when it happened can't be pinpointed, even in the postmortem. Because cause and effect relationships aren't predictable, absolute, linear and time bound, executive teams get lulled to sleep; they lapse into a coma; they don't wake up.

Many leaders analyze issues as if they're static rather than dynamic. Even when they do a good job of analyzing individual issues, they typically neglect the fact that problem solving requires not only analysis but synthesis. That is, all of the elements impacting their organizations have to be understood together and while moving!

Most executives have at least reasonable analytical skills. Inadequate aptitude at synthesis, however, is a large reason for poor results. It's also one reason that the long-term plans of many organizations are not strategic plans. Solid strategic thinking and planning require synthesis.

Copyright 2012 Rand Golletz. All rights reserved.

Author's Bio: 

Rand Golletz is the managing partner of Rand Golletz Performance Systems, a leadership development, executive coaching and consulting firm that works with senior corporate leaders and business owners on a wide range of issues, including interpersonal effectiveness, brand-building, sales management, strategy creation and implementation. For more information and to sign up for Rand's free newsletter, The Real Deal, visit http://www.randgolletz.com