August 23, 2012

Vision to the Core

Stress Kills Creativity and Productivity. With daily workloads and ‘priorities’ that, let’s face it, are often more urgent than important, spilling over the brim, everybody is just ‘busy’. I often hear people say that it’s not the shortage of ideas but the bandwidth to execute that paralyses organisations and delivers underwhelming results. There is no room left for new ideas, new projects and innovation in general. We make it oh so complex! We sweat the small stuff.

 

Every day employees on all levels make decisions that require risky trade-offs. They need a compass. As the Cheshire Cat said to Alice,

“If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.”

The most successful organisations know where they are going. Their employees know what’s important. Their vision to the core shows in consistent actions and words of their leaders. It is imbedded in operational processes and underpinned by a sound learning system.

Implementing a system that gives the employees a compass to easily check their direction makes their lives and the life of every Manager a lot easier.

Here is how!

Business thrives on processes and routine. Processes ensure stability, efficiency and measurability. But processes not linked to a Vision can only take the organisation so far. The role of a Vision is to provide an inspirational picture of a rewarding, unique future the whole organisation has set out to achieve. And, most importantly, Vision builds on the Competitive Advantage and reminds people who they are and what they are best at.

Most companies have some form of Vision formulated. What’s often missing is the link to daily operations and processes.  In pursuit of short term financial objectives, businesses sometimes forget that the prime source of their Competitive Advantage is Differentiation: the very reason why Customers buy from you, why employees are attracted to work for you. The sharper the differentiation, the greater is the company’s advantage.

Competitive Advantage will deliver enduring profits when it’s are supported by ‘non-negotiable principles’ and robust learning systems that drive constant improvement and stimulate innovation across the business. So, step one is to develop a set of guiding ‘Non-negotiable Principles’.

‘Non-negotiable Principles’ translate the company’s Vision and Mission into a few simple statements that all employees can understand, relate to and apply. ‘Non-negotiable Principles’ helps employees make trade-offs between competing choices.

When everyone in the organisation is equipped with this compass-like tool, the result is better decisions made easier, faster and ‘right the first time’ more often. This, in turn, opens a whole new capacity for growth and innovation.

Pick one.

Many successful organisations focus on ONE KEY MEASURE. These single-focused principles may have a set of supporting rules, which can all be tested with a single question: “Does this action support our Winning Idea?”

Examples:

Gordon Bethune, taking over a troubled Continental Airlines, made his team focus on ‘on-time arrivals’. This simple rule allows employees test their every action, by asking: ‘Will this choice/decision help us become known and deliver our promise of being an ‘on-time arrivals’ airline?

Paul O’Neill, taking charge of Alcoa’s aluminium giant, made his top priority: ‘No worker accidents’. He saw that to prevent accidents, all employees would have to understand their operations so well that operational efficiencies would unfold naturally, preventing accidents.

In the 1980s, a new director of New York City’s troubled subway system declared: ‘No graffiti’. He knew that eliminating graffiti would provide an important victory and would, in turn, lead to other improvements.

How To Apply Non-Negotiable Principles.

If you define your organisation as the “leader in fast turnaround of short-production-run” manufacturing services [givens: acceptable quality, acceptable profit margin], you would train your employees to habitually have this conversation in their head:

  • “Our success depends on ‘fast turnaround’.”
  • “Will this action support ‘fast turnaround’ outcome – consistently, repeatedly and profitably?”
  • “What can I, or others in the process, do differently to improve our ‘fast turnaround’ outcome?”
  • “What else do I need to make my work easier to achieve expected or better ‘fast turnaround’ outcome?”
  • “Can this idea help me improve ‘fast turnaround’ outcome?”
  • “Problem: extra cost to solve to deliver on our ‘fast turnaround’ promise. Test: Will this action help us achieve ‘fast turnaround’, without compromising the future? [Givens: acceptable quality, acceptable profit margin]”

The NNP system can even be applied to marketing improvements and inovation:

  • “What other markets or what other customers would value or Completive Advantage?”
  • (Or): “What other industries rely on fast turnaround and what methodologies do they use?”

When we pay attention to process excellence and teach our employees to practice continuous improvement by ‘thinking differently’ about their own activities, with focus on Vision and the Competitive Advantage, the result is peace of mind and extra capacity to act on new ideas and think how to deliver strategic objectives differently: productivity and innovation.

 

InnoFuture offers a Non-Negotiable Principles Leader Program. It does two things: it helps organisations translate their strategic Vision and Mission into a workable set of ‘non-negotiable principles’; and delivers robust learning system that coaches, re-iterates the core message and connects learning to daily operations and the strategy. The outcome is transformation from ‘busy’ to ‘effective’, and developing cultural habit that drives continuous improvement and stimulates innovative thinking across the business.

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