You’re speeding towards a goal when you hear sounds that make the brakes squeal: “The procedures don’t allow this.” “It will take months to process.” “Submit more forms.” Or worse, you request cooperation but don’t get a response. You curse petty bureaucrats for causing the screeching halt. You wonder if you should offer favours or pull strings to get things moving again. But if you call on cronyism, you perpetuate the problem: a vicious cycle of powerlessness that undermines organizational effectiveness.Power corrupts, as Lord Acton famously said, but so does powerlessness. Though powerlessness might not result in the egregious violations associated with arrogant officials who feel they are above the law, it is corrosive. For years I’ve observed its destructive impact on organizations. In the aftermath of the financial crisis, it seems pervasive, just when companies need to change direction quickly. While strategy is cerebral, springing from a few minds as a tidy plan, the messier task of execution requires everyone’s coordinated actions.