Compass Pointing the Way to Leadership in Business

WASTA: Curses and Cures
In this exploration of WASTA, I will do three things:

  1. Look at the true meaning of this activity that takes its toll on businesses throughout the world.
  2. Examine the impact it has on the human capital of a business, the curses.
  3. Suggest some cures that have been successfully implemented in the real world of business.

WASTA is really an acronym that stands for the „Willing Acceptance of Subordination, Tyranny and Abandonment of personal will.“ More directly, it means that when you accept or use WASTA you have given up a part of your personal freedom. Freedom means the ability to say ‚no‚ to things that compromise your personal integrity. WASTA also means you accumulate debts. Nothing comes free. WASTA is a form of currency that operates in exactly the same way as financial debts. When you use someone’s WASTA you will have to recon with payback time. Payback means that you either return the favor or lose the ‚friendship‘ and ’support‘ of your ‚dear friend‘.

The very act of asking for WASTA is an admission of your inadequacy, weakness, or inability to get something done legally. Therefore, the minute you accept it, you have given the party offering the WASTA power over you. It is like taking a rope, tying a noose around your own neck and then giving the end of the rope to someone else to pull or release as they please. „Too extreme!“ I hear you object. Let me help you visualize a situation.

The business of obstructing other people’s business has been developed to a fine art. Even the most basic services are made to seem incomprehensibly complex, tortuously bureaucratic and interminably lengthy. Nothing is possible without a ‚middle man‘ and generous amounts of ‚grease‘ to get you through the quagmire of antiquated procedures. This is the ‚leverage power‘ that those who make a living from WASTA use. It is a trap for the innocent, the anxious, the fearful, the incompetent, the greedy and the guilty. It is your own vulnerability that gives those who offer WASTA, power over you and ownership of a part of your soul and your freedom. It is also what causes investors to look elsewhere.

The subject of WASTA is wide and complex, and since I am not writing a book, I will limit this discussion to the use of WASTA for employment purposes. I do however need to discuss it against the backdrop painted above to show why some individuals or companies may be more susceptible than others.


What happens if for some reason or other your company decides that WASTA, is after all a way of and they want to play things that way? Also, what if they confuse WASTA with sound business planning and marketing strategy and use WASTA as a survival mechanism? You do me favors, so I do business with you. The result is that your company will be ‚blessed‘ with employees with varying degrees of incompetence. These persons could be at any level in the company, from doorman to senior manager.

Curse # 1: Everybody will know who the new employee’s WASTA is and will immediately divide into camps, for, against and indifferent. This will limit this person’s effectiveness from the start.

Curse # 2: Depending on the strength of the new employee’s WASTA, he or she may ignore the authority of his or her supervisor if the supervisor does not have a more powerful WASTA. It becomes ugly if the WASTAS are from opposing sides. Overall, the result will be a breakdown in the ability of the supervisor to control his or her team or department. There will almost certainly be a drop in initiative taking.

Curse # 3: Other employees in the same department will notice the insubordination of the new employee and this will lead to questions such as: „What is the point of working hard or doing a good job since other people can just be parachuted in and get paid for doing very little?“ If the new person’s salary is higher than the existing salaries, watch out for major de-motivation and falls in productivity.

Curse # 4: Spiteful behavior will develop towards the new employee. This will lead to ’slow downs‘ and /or ‚blockages‘ in the workflow as colleagues express their unwillingness to cooperate with this person along with an unconscious or conscious desire to cause them to fail.

Curse # 5: If this new person takes a post that one of your more competent employees had his or her sights set on, that person will start updating their CV and looking for opportunities outside of your company or outside the country. When competent people leave, they take valuable knowledge, skills and customers, both internal and external with them. Key staff turnover results in direct and indirect financial losses to your company.

Curse# 6: The bonds of loyalty between employee and company, if they existed, will be weakened and if already weak will be broken. Lack of loyalty could mean an increase in self-serving behavior: longer lunch breaks, frequent visits to the washroom, increased sick days and overall absenteeism, lateness, formation of cliques, abuse of company property, resources and facilities and even, in extreme cases, theft.

Curse # 7: Investment in staff development and training could yield poor returns due to the fact that people develop a belief that progress is not based on ability but on WASTA. The ’smart‘ ones will benefit from the training but will use it to move to other companies or seek overseas jobs where they believe they stand a fair chance for progress and advancement based on their abilities.

Curse # 8: Not being able to attract and keep the most qualified staff, or, losing them to competitors.

Curse # 9: Creating a work ethic based purely on money. Employees and employers sell out to the highest bidder. Don’t expect employees to make sacrifices for you if they see that they don’t really matter to you. If you sell them out, they will sell you out too.

Curse # 10: Not building a business on solid foundations. If your business is built on doing favors to key clients so they will do business with you, where will that put you if you fall out of favor or if the client takes his business elsewhere or just has an accident or dies or something like that?

The net result of a work environment where WASTA is used as a means of employment, promotion, bonus allocation, performance appraisal, selection for overseas training or other Human Resource Management function is one of low productivity. You may be sure that the people who will leave first are your most competent staff.

Those who will stay until retirement are not necessarily your most loyal, but those least able to compete in an open job market, i.e. those who came in by WASTA or those who know they are no longer employable and are waiting for their indemnities.

The other employees who will stay are those who have their own agenda or are building up a business of their own and are using the company as an insurance policy until they are ready to break away. Just imagine the level of creativity and productivity you will get from such a workforce, and ask yourself if using WASTA is really such a smart investment for your business? In place of the one or two contracts you will get, you will be losing millions of hours in productivity and who knows how much in direct and indirect theft of resources.

Your business should be built on solid foundations. Businesses built to last offer products and services that customers need and want. I don’t believe any of the businesses that have built up superior reputations and brand names have to do favors by employing incompetent staff so they can get business. It is the other way around.

Cures are tough in cultures steeped in the WASTA mentality since time immemorial, but not impossible. There are short-term and long-term cures and both must be addressed if we want to build sound businesses.

The Short Term

Cure # 1: Clean up your act, past and present. „People who live in glass houses can’t throw stones.“ Make sure that you are legally and morally covered on all fronts. It gives you incredible power and self-confidence when facing opposition.

Cure # 2: Work continuously on developing your personal skills and competencies as well those of your workforce. That way you will retain good people and be able to pick and choose from the best when you need new talent, since your business will have a reputation for excellence. This will make it hard for people to approach you with a WASTA for a loser.

Cure # 3: Avoid becoming indebted to people who will then have power over you by asking for the favor to be returned in unsuitable ways.

Cure # 4: Say ‚No‘ by saying ‚Yes‘. Have clear job specifications for all positions and jobs in your company, so that when approached for a WASTA, you can say, „I will be happy to accommodate you if you have someone who meets these specifications.“ Even better, be proactive and approach the WASTA owners by giving them first choice in providing the profile you need.

Cure # 5: Use professional recruitment techniques in all phases of recruitment and selection so that you don’t expose your company to unnecessary aggravation. These services can be developed within your own company or outsourced.

Cure # 6: Make it clear that if you do hire someone who has a WASTA, they will have to comply with company requirements like anyone else. Be sure that you have a rigorous trial, training and testing period before new employees are confirmed in their positions.

Cure # 7: Ensure that your internal systems are set up so that the opportunities for abuse are limited. Appraisals, bonuses, salary scales, promotions, etc. are all subject to abuse. These should be redesigned for transparency and based on measurable indicators. If the effect of behavior or performance cannot be measured, then it is not having an impact on your business and should not be used for reward or compensation.

Cure # 8: Outsource services that you do not want internal staff to get involved in, so that no group gets power over other groups by having privileged information. Ensure the neutrality, objectivity and trustworthiness of the outside party.

Cure # 9: Use modern market and consumer research to understand what customers need and want and build your business on solid foundations. Ensure you get the right people to implement the plan. Put them in the right places and develop and keep these people by using tried and tested business practices that have helped businesses grow around the world.

Cure # 10: Get over the idea your area of the world is a place where business cannot be conducted like in other parts of the world! If that were true, why is it the dream of almost every young male and female to get out of their current situation and go where they can be appreciated and valued for their accomplishments?

The long term cures are not the subject of this article, but I am sure they will present major challenges to Ministries of Education, Administrative Reform / Development, Social Affairs and many others worldwide who really have serious public awareness and education campaigns that must be addressed. If only we could emerge from the days of old and enter the new century.

Fay-F-NiewiadomskiFay Niewiadomski founded ICTN (International Consulting & Training Network) in 1993. She has expanded her capabilities in the field of management consulting, training and development as well as coaching and counselling. For over fifteen years she has been working with Team Management Systems Development International and is authorized by TMSDI, UK to accredit and support other professionals to use these dynamic psychometric tools. In addition to TMS, Fay is a master facilitator in Emotional Intelligence and is certified to deliver and coach executives with EBW-Emotions and Behaviours at Work Profile. Fay has presented nearly 2000 seminars and workshops, authored and published close to 300 articles on the business culture of the Middle East, training manuals and case studies. She is well versed in the use of NLP and is currently completing 100 hours as a Strategic Interventionist with the world acclaimed success Coach Anthony Robbins and celebrated psychologist, Cloe Madanes.

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Restructuring Kästchen

Modernization is an effective approach to making existing mainframe and distributed systems more responsive to business needs. To meet the demand for business innovation and agility, organizations are looking to improve the structure, flexibility and re usability of their business.

An article written in the Harvard Business Review entitled, „Managing Professional Intellect: Making the Most of the Best,“ provided reassurance that the problems faced by businesses in developed countries were very similar to the problems faced in third world countries today.

The points of leverage in organizations are the beliefs and worldview of their leaders and decision makers. The sense of purpose, vision and commitment of an organization’s leadership play a critical role in the results it can accomplish. However, it is essential to realize and accept the fact that if the organization is to survive it must change and evolve.

If an organization is going to develop, it must make many significant changes in the overall strategies, practices and operational tactics. And as it evolves, the leaders and the employees have to be able to align with the organizational changes or the restructuring process will not be successful.

To be quite simplistic, an organization has to be viewed as a dynamic system, and like any other system it will not work when all the involved components are not working together smoothly and efficiently. This basically means that any change to the organization must be mirrored by a realignment within the workforce. This is the only possible way to effect change successfully.

However, it is essential that modernization of any type has to be approached from a risk and benefits perspective. Another reason to modernize would be to reduce the overall support and operational costs. This is only justifiable if the savings from modernization exceed the cost of modernizing. Additionally, any change effected by an organization must include a carefully developed plan for enabling the human element of that organization to understand, be willing and able to implement the changes required. Otherwise the cost of the modernization will deliver no return on investment for the organization and may in fact, add additional costs to the initial investment.

When looking to identify where change needs to take place it is a fact that organizational restructuring can help management gain insight about the best ways to align the available human resources with the needs of the company to ensure the highest level of performance and thereby deliverable to better guarantee current and continued success, profitability and a strong a healthy future within the organization.

The ability to innovate and be creative in the use of knowledge and information to problem-solve has been cited many times as the key to competitive advantage in any organization. However, there is a difference in modernizing an organization that is relatively young and an organization that has been in operation for many years.


Many organizations in the world today proudly announce, „We are in the process of restructuring our organization!“

I sometimes wonder if it wouldn’t have been more accurate for them to say, „We are in the process of creating a mongrel that will have no clear identity.“

Restructuring is a very stressful and time-consuming exercise the outcome of which will not take shape immediately. It is an activity that goes to the very roots of the organization, because it shakes the foundations on which the parent organization was built. It asks whether or not the assumptions made by the founders of the organization still hold. It asks uncomfortable questions about the optimal size of the organization. It questions the degree of transparency of the financial management of the organization.

When these questions are directed at management, who also happen to be the owners, things can become uncomfortable. When departmental operations are minutely scrutinized, many individuals can feel personally threatened. The level of discomfort is directly proportional to the intensity of hostility and resistance expressed towards the restructuring project as a whole.

Restructuring is such an ambitious and challenging undertaking, that it is impossible to examine all aspects of it in the context of this column. Changing the physical appearance and the interior design of the organization is costly, but easy because carpets, furniture, walls, and even the company logo are without feelings and have no voice. By far the most difficult aspect of restructuring is the part dealing with people. Their fears and insecurities surface during this process as never before. Everyone seems to be functioning on a short-fuse and voices and tempers are always on the rise.

Many companies still run on a strictly vertical structure and have a patriarchal management style.

Those who are used to this approach assume that this is something you accept as part of reality. You do the minimum, follow the rules, bow to authority, and forget about the whole experience when you step out of the company. Many owners of such businesses want to change because they see the writing on the wall very clearly: „adapt to the realities of the new millennium or die.“

Now the owners want staff to take on more responsibilities, manage as if the company belongs to them, etc… But these employees have been conditioned to a completely different set of values and practices. They are paralyzed if they do not receive clear instructions or ‚do/don’t do‘ directives. The frustration on both sides mounts. The owners begin to hire new-blood as a way of breaking the inertia of dependency exhibited by older staff.

The new breed of employees may have a foreign education, has 2 to 8 years of work experience outside the organization; probably have not lived the culture existing in the organization; have taken for granted a certain type of organizational structure and working relationships related to it, and are comfortable with ‚high-tech‘ information processing in decision support systems, communications and transportation. These individual run the risk of acting with an air of superiority towards the organization and towards the people in it.

Visualize the two categories of employees facing each other within any organization you care to imagine. Think of how individuals will feel: jealousy, resentment, anger, fear, frustration, intolerance and even active hatred will surface. Add to this volatile mixture the strains and stresses of restructuring the organization and you have a good idea of what to expect when you launch such a process. So what do you do? Avoid it? Postpone it? You cannot, so what do you do?

First, you prepare yourself for the worst. Second, you recognize the fact that you will be making some of the toughest decisions of your whole business career during this period. Third, you brace yourself to cope with unusually high stress levels for the coming two to three years. The worst period will be during year one. You will also need to face the fact that you will not be seeing significant, tangible rewards in the immediate future and that you may have to rethink and change course several times during the process as you test things and people out. You simply cannot forecast the impact on human chemistry in different sections of the organization.

So what can an organization do to facilitate the change necessary to sufficiently and effectively modernize itself?

Recruit the best: „Venture capital firms, recognizing talent and commitment as the most critical elements for their success, spend as much time selecting and pursuing top people as they do making quantitative analyses of projects.“

„Force intensive early development:… for most professionals the learning curve depends heavily on interactions with customers, where they work under the watchful eye of an experienced coach.“

„Evaluate and weed. Professionals like to be evaluated, to compete, to know they have excelled against their peers. But they want to be evaluated objectively and by people at the top of their field.“

„Boost professionals‘ problem-solving abilities by capturing knowledge in systems and software. Electronic systems replace human command-and-control procedures. They also can eliminate most of the routine jobs, free up employees for more personalized or skilled work, and allow tasks to be more decentralized, challenging and rewarding.“

„Overcome professionals‘ reluctance to share information. Information sharing is critical because intellectual assets, unlike physical assets, increase in value with use.“

These points offer a brief glimpse of many valuable insights shared in the HBR article. It is well worth looking for the issue and reading the entire piece.

What are the symptoms that organizational restructuring is necessary?

* The morale of staff is deteriorating.
* Workforce productivity is deteriorating and/or stagnant (staying the same).
* Customer satisfaction is declining and/or fewer new customers are doing business with the organization.
* Employees performance shows increased mistakes or gaps when trying to meet customer requests.
* New competencies (skill sets) are needed to meet organizational and customer expectations and requirements.
* There seems to be confusion in what individuals, departments, teams, etc… are responsible for and what these groups or individuals will be held accountable for.
* Deliverable results seem to be unclear.
* Departments, functional areas or parts of the organization are significantly over or understaffed and may not have sufficient resources to meet organizational requirements.
* Performance appraisals are somewhat biased.
* Communication channels within the organization are inconsistent, inefficient or entirely too cumbersome to be reliable.
* Technological changes required by the changing markets create resistance and/or barriers to the workflow.
* The turnover rate is increasing.

These are just a few examples of symptoms that may point to an urgent need to restructure parts or all of the organization.

However, it is very important to understand that restructuring without a well thought out, well designed plan will, in most result in larger and more dangerous problems than are currently be experienced.

An organization may have great business strategies and ideas but not have a clearly defined plan on how to effect the organizational restructuring process. It is essential to design and facilitate a clear definition of the different roles, showing what is required from each individual, the inter dependencies and channels of communication that will be implemented during and after the restructuring process. This better ensures that all investments made to facilitate the restructuring will deliverable a measurable return on investment.

Fay Niewiadomski founded ICTN (International Consulting & Training Network) in 1993. ICTN provides complete management services to its clients who are among the leading regional and multinational players. Furthermore, she has worked with CEOs, Board Members, Presidents and Ministers of Government and other Leaders to help them meet the challenges of change within their organizations through creative problem solving, management interventions and powerful communication strategies. Prior to founding ICTN, she researched the subject of „Managing Change through Needs-Based Assessment‘ in large Lebanese Organizations“ for her doctoral work at the University of East Anglia in the UK. Additionally, she also held various university positions as a professor at AUB and LAU and as Dean of the Faculty of Humanities at NDU.

Fay-F-NiewiadomskiFor additional information on how to improve performance and increase productivity through people, decrease cost and better ensure growth and sustainability, visit

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The following is reprinted with permission from Higher Life Magazin who interviewed Dr. Lymbersky and published the article in March 2014

A Name to Watch out for in Corporate Restructuring: Dr. Christoph Lymbersky

The corporate restructuring industry is growing very rapidly, bringing with it more and more self-proclaimed experts and professionals. However there are still some names that stand out.

The turnaround and restructuring industry is led by a few individuals who are not very well known to us “normal” people, but they are famous within their industry. Amongst them are John M. Collard, Jay Alix, David Lovett, and Donald Bibeault. These guys walk into the offices of huge multinational corporate CEOs as if they are best friends with them. Often, they may well be. They are the trusted advisors of presidents and top-level executives; of chairmen of global players and even directors of international consultings firms. They are the management elite and stay in the background as much as possible.

Someone who is getting getting more and more attention lately is Dr. Christoph Lymbersky. He is already very known in the academic world since he published a framework for corporate turnaround projects that leads to more successful and sustainable turnarounds. His book, The International Turnaround Management Standard, is one of Amazon’s bestsellers. Before its publication a lot of the research focused on the causes of decline and specific aspects of corporate restructuring, with some books looking at how to manage a turnaround process. Dr. Lymbersky, however, combined project management techniques with hundreds of best practice cases to develop a system that can lead virtually any company through a crisis situation and that targets every possible reason why turnarounds fail.

Today Dr. Lymbersky is consulted by the senior management of international corporations such as Deutsche Telekom, banks and mid-sized companies about corporate restructuring projects and strategic turnarounds. Many clients, especially those in need of his turnaround management advice, wish to remain anonymous and, having met Dr. Lymbersky in Frankfurt, Germany, this year, I bet they remain anonymous for ever.

This true expert comes across as considered, serious and very well educated. He doesn’t show off, he listens and he doesn’t say much, but when he talks it is straight to the point and well thought through, just as you would expect from somebody who dines with CEOs from around the world and handles difficult situations with a steady hand.

For six years now Dr. Lymbersky has been the managing director of the Turnaround Management Society, a not-for-profit organization that he has grown from an unofficial academic network to be one of the world’s leading consultant networks for turnaround managers and interim executives. “I still believe that the professional industry can profit from the research carried out in the academic world, and vice versa. Our whole Society is build around the principle of giving and taking. Every member contributes to the Turnaround Management Society in some way, and in turn every member profits from it. This is a principle that works to everybody’s advantage. The members know each other personally and support one another,” said Dr. Lymbersky, who created the turnaround management certification program, the “Certified International Turnaround Manager”, and who also publishes the Turnaround Management Journal. And because that is not enough, he recently bought, an online network for turnaround, restructuring, and transformation consultants and works as a senior management consultant for Detecon International an ICT consulting firm.

After the meeting I was certainly impressed, but I‘m not the only one. My research shows that he has also impressed the world’s leading experts in corporate turnarounds such as Donald Bibeault and John Collard.

Donald Bibeault, who published the most popular book about the restructuring industry, Corporate Turnarounds: How Managers Turn Losers into Winners, said that he is “very pleased that Dr. Christoph Lymbersky and his colleagues have created the International Turnaround Management Standard to perpetuate and enhance the research and intellectual underpinnings of the turnaround management profession.”

John M. Collard, who has been a consultant to President Bush (both Junior and Senior), President Clinton, and Jelzin on corporate restructurings and who has proved himself a true expert over the last 40 years, wrote about him that: “The International Turnaround Management Standard is a brilliant rendition of strategies and actions that can be applied to the turnaround process. Dr. Lymbersky has done a marvelous job of bringing together methodologies for practitioners.”

When reminded of these statements, Dr. Lymbersky smiled and said, “There are a few people I truly look up to, and John, Donald, and David Lovett are certainly amongst them.” They are part of the world’s silent elite—the turnaround industry, a group that he certainly belongs to as well. But there is one thing that distinguishes him from the others: he is European. Over the last 40 years the world of corporate restructuring has looked to the USA; now Europe has a rising star in turnaround management as well.

I’m sure we will hear a lot more from him in the future. The industry needs true leaders who lead by example and set a standard, not only for industry practice but for other restructuring consultants and students who want to save jobs in the future.

The full article is published in the Higher Life Magazin in March 2014. The interview was done by Mira C. Jones of the Higher Life Magazin

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