May 7, 2013

Goldilocks on Productivity

VisionI did it again! I upset the apple cart. Last week I asked a Federal Minister and a corresponding Shadow Minister what the Government vision for Australia’s future is. A fair question, wouldn’t you think? After all, we expect businesses to have a Vision. 

The request caused some confusion and produced a sound broken robot makes… hollow metallic gurgling and a desperate automatic rewind of the same phrase that becomes less meaningful with every repetition. The phrase was something along ‘be more productive… be more innovative’.

Well, I must be a robot too, because this is exactly what I think we need to do. But what does it mean? Take out a whip and chain people to their workstations?

How can we, as Managers, generate more value for the business and fulfil the promise to our families, country and the next generation, that we will preserve our great lifestyle we take for granted?

Have you heard the term “hidden in plain sight”? The solution is actually quite simple. Not easy but simple.

Despite the fact that the main impact of the GFC seems to have by-passed Australian shores, we know we are at some cross-roads. Many executives, on all levels, believe that the flat or declining business performance is due to our ‘strong’ dollar, high labour costs, unfair competition from cheap imports and online concepts; and, yes, the good old ‘tyranny of distance’, or even the upcoming election.

So, the decision is easy: wait.

Wait for the government to ‘do something’ about the dollar; wait for the election, hoping the new government will come up with a better tax scheme or more advantageous budget distribution and new incentives the ‘winners’ can pocket to compensate for the lack of real strategic business solutions.

We can kid ourselves that current business difficulties are the result of the above and other factors. These factors are symptoms and they will get worse if not treated!

To be fair, the Robot-Minister is right: we need to switch Productivity and Innovation into a new gear. Did you notice I didn’t say higher gear? It depends entirely on where we are going. It’s called: Vision.

What is Productivity?

TODAY, productivity is not just about efficient process management, outsourcing to countries with still cheaper labour. It is about having a Culture of creating value through employee engagement that is derived from an inspirational and consistently communicated Vision.

But here comes Goldilocks:

This company is too small. Vision and Mission are for big companies, big banks, Microsoft. We don’t have the time now to think about it. We need to concentrate on developing product offerings and making sure people meet the sales targets every month.”

This company is too large. Yeah, there is a corporate Vision and Mission and Values… on our website. We are part of a multinational. It doesn’t mean anything to us. We are the Government. What vision are you looking for?

This company is just right. Our Vision, Mission and Values part of everything we do. We derive and drive success through it. We are: IKEA, Vanguard, Apple, Toyota, Human Vending, Zappo’s, Amazon…

…We’re a company of storytellers, and we mine our history to give us the insights about how we will think about the future. We have a set of company-wide maxims – 11 principles – that guide us. Together, they embody the spirit of Nike.

And, just so you don’t feel all the pressure is on us as business leaders…

Why is Vision important on Government level?

Case one: In his recent post on Conversation, Professor Roy Green writes:

“A resource-rich country takes a public stake in its oil and gas assets, implements a 76% resource rent tax and establishes a sovereign wealth fund that hedges its high currency and invests in its future innovation and research infrastructure. That country is Norway.

“Another country has also enjoyed high commodity prices, but implements a flawed mining tax, is dogged by a high dollar, distracted by a damaging leadership debate and has a seeming inability to tackle long term structural reform. That country is Australia.”

Still thinking your company is too small or too large, or too in the middle? Here is another example of the power of long term Vision.

Case two: For good and bad, business leadership in China is essentially linked with the government leadership. This drives business direction and welfare of the society as a long term vision. Chinese CEOs are likely to forego short term profit in favour of long term advantage to keep the factories buzzing and prevent the threat of famines that plagued the nation in the past.

The moral of the story is that every business and every country needs to have a Vision, a BHAG (big hairy audacious goal) to achieve something special or just to ensure its economic and political freedom.

Vision is a powerful tool internally – to inspire and motivate people; and externally – to inspire the public and create a connection with the customers that generates loyalty and profitable sales.

Vision and Mission are the first building block of strategic, value creating Productivity. Only when people understand and are inspired about their common goal, they will be able and willing to actively look for better ways to achieve it.

Let me know your thoughts!

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Jojo-half image InnoFuture provides innovative business culture transformation services to progressive, Small-Medium organisations. Request a Free Consultation. Or contact Margaret Manson on 0407 661 130 to find out how we can help your organisation be more focused, more differentiated and more competitive.

 

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