Avoiding organisational FRAP

Highly competitive business scenarios and the growing pressure for rapid results push companies towards an intriguing phenomenon called Frenetic Random Activity Periods (FRAP). Some typical characteristics of this organisational behaviour are constantly changing priorities, urgent work, frequent war rooms for solving crises, low-quality deliverables, duplicate initiatives and strategic misalignment. This brief piece highlights the dangers behind organisational FRAP and strategies for preventing this tempting behaviour of zooming around like a mad dog.

The challenges

You have probably witnessed a dog running around from side to side in a high-speed manner and changing direction for no particular reason. Science calls this behaviour Frenetic Random Activity Period (FRAP), and it helps dogs burn accumulated energy. I am using this dog behaviour as an analogy for some similar situations I have frequently seen in organisations these days. Economic and political crises are putting companies in the challenging position of fighting for survival. Consequently, companies are engaging in FRAP behaviour quite often to overcome short-term problems and dangers. Sometimes this behaviour is necessary. However, you might have a much deeper problem if your company is doing it excessively. Let’s explore how to identify and navigate three possible interconnected causes of this phenomenon.

  1. Future-oriented organisational decision-making lacks strategic thinking – Many companies are careless with their organisational moves and investments, and often, their C-level personnel are focused only on short-term results. There is no thought given to the future and no coherent long-term vision. For these companies, the false sense of speed is more important than the direction. We can easily spot this lack of strategic thinking when companies’ main objectives describe things like “grow revenue” or “increase EBITDA by X%”.  Mistaking strategy for fixed plans is another symptom of the absence of strategic thinking. Strategy is a living and continuous process; companies should be able to continuously identify changes and adapt their options accordingly.
  2. Fragile value proposition for customers Let’s face the undeniable fact that a considerable number of companies are simply delivering poor-quality products and services to their customers. Companies frequently do not pay attention to the real needs of their users. Their products and services are not fit for their purpose or they do not deliver the promised quality levels. These practices put companies in uncomfortable positions in the competitive landscape. Consequently, these organisations are continually fighting crises to avoid revenue loss as many customers leave the company and fulfil their needs by switching to better options.
  3. Unprepared Leadership I swear I tried to find a more polite way to say this, but sometimes organisational FRAP is purely due to bad leadership. It’s not just about people who lack leadership experience. It’s about pseudo-leaders who are more interested in generating short-term results and getting their annual bonus at any cost. Leaders should be able to master balancing an organisation’s energy between solving short-term problems and enhancing the landscape of the future. Without this ability, leaders are mere taskmasters for the fulfilment of short-term decisions.

How to navigate these possible causes?

If we scrutinise these three causes, we will find an intriguing pattern of negligence regarding preparation for the future. Many organisations are focused only on today’s problems and are not looking ahead. This is a systemic problem as there are C-level leaders who are only concerned with the businesses’ survivability. Solving urgent crises and stopping losses are certainly important to keep a business healthy. However, leaders must accept the necessity of investing a reasonable amount of time and money today into creating the future. That is the key to evolving any successful company.

Diligence in saying NO is another necessary skill for strategic leaders. Many companies blindly say YES to any opportunity for making easy money in the short term. We saw this during the COVID-19 pandemic. Due to the massive need for more digital services, companies hired more people and grew their capabilities without considering the future implications of those decisions. As the demand for digital services has decreased over the last few months, the same companies are struggling to maintain the oversized capacity they created during the pandemic.

Some final thoughts

Perhaps organisational FRAP is a natural tendency for any company willing to compete in the market. FRAP might be useful in some circumstances because companies must be nimble enough to react to urgent business. Additionally, adopting a constant frenetic rhythm is tempting in modern society and is highly valued in a workaholic culture. However, companies must stop working hard and start working smart. This means leaders should be able to assess, prioritise, and test strategic options for addressing short-term and long-term challenges. Strategic thinking is a key ingredient for developing smarter businesses. I recommend you take a look at the five basic principles described in the article ‘How to mobilise the organisational network toward strategic outcomes?’. Leaders at different levels should be aware of the FRAP phenomenon and should more diligently invest a reasonable portion of their organisational energy towards creating a better future for the business. That is the best antidote to prevent organisational FRAP.

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