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One of the most difficult tasks in leadership is to fire people. Senior leaders are among the few with the authority to do it but, sadly, few of them exercise that authority – often to the detriment of themselves and their organization.

I have fired my fair share of people; it’s not pleasant. Having said that, it is amazing to see how restructuring out under-performing elements of a system can lead to significant cultural and performance improvements.

I am not a systems theory expert, but with my limited study of systems theory I would liken it to the concept of cascading failure (yes, I cited wikipedia). It is intuitive and simple. In an organization, we rely on each other to fulfill interdependent functions. The degree to which one or several functions are under-performing is the opportunity cost to the organization. Moreover, we may even be heading down a path of cascading failure, albeit slow and painful, to the organization’s ultimate demise.

This kind of commentary is often criticized as too clinical and not sensitive enough to the ultimate resource our organizations have – people. This of course is levelled by those who are most likely to be fired based on performance. Ask those who are carrying the human resource dead weight how happy they are. If you relieved them of the extra baggage of others’ lack of buy-in, performance, team participation and engagement etc, imagine how much they could do!!