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The Organizational Epidemic: Is Your Herd Immune?by Jack Zenger July 21, 2016

herdimmunityIn 1974, 80% of Japanese children were receiving the vaccine for whooping cough. As a result, there were only 393 cases of whopping cough and no deaths. In the following years the vaccine seemed less important. After all whooping cough wasn’t really that much of a threat. The immunization rates dropped until only 10% of Japanese children were vaccinated.

The result: In 1979, more than 13,000 people in Japan got whooping cough and 41 died. The reason for the outbreak was the lack of “herd immunity.” The success of mass immunization programs hinges on getting a high percentage of individuals inoculated. When a parent fails to immunize a child or you fail to get a flu shot, to some degree, you jeopardize the entire herd.

The concept of herd immunity applies to the leadership of organizations as well. Consider these two scenarios:

A. The organization sponsors 20 different programs and involves 25 people in each. (Think university catalogue and small classes.)
B. The organization sponsors a single and more powerful program and 500 managers participate out of 700 potential attendees.

Which will have the greatest impact? Yes, it is probably obvious that the later solution is best. Yet year after year we see organizations make the choice to send only a select few through a leadership program, or to let everyone pick the one thing they’d like to spend their development dollars on from a menu of options. Then they are surprised when the organization doesn’t change or improve. If organization’s focus is on only 20 people out of 500, there is minimal cultural impact and only the 20 individuals will benefit. You cannot save the herd if you train (immunize) only 4% of your team. Continued on Forbes.com.



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