It is always exciting to find a shortcut, especially one that saves time and aggravation. There is a great feeling in missing three blocks of traffic by making a quick turn you never knew existed. Shortcuts at work can provide the same type of satisfaction. But what needs to be considered is what is being sacrificed by taking a particular new route.
Process innovation is important as long as the core values of the organizations and the quality of the products or services are maintained or enhanced. Saving two days in production time by bypassing Quality Control or Safety procedures is a big shortcut- but it leads to a big dead end. The time saved up front will lead to huge cost and time expenditures down the road. And it represents a major pivot on ethical, integrity, and best practice standards.
Shortcuts present themselves every so often. Make sure they are not fool’s gold. They can ruin you. Sometimes the path not taken should not be taken for good reasons. Do you consider the consequences of each potential shortcut before taking it? If not, beware.
A lot can be learned from listening to sports coaches when they talk about not getting too high over a victory or too low over a loss. Everything has to be kept in perspective. In business, mistakes happen, all kinds of disasters occur, and sometimes they result in doors closing. On the other hand, there can be a surprise win- landing a big account, vaulting ahead of the competition. But being number one can be short lived. Neither troubled times nor great times are going to be permanent. What can we learn from both conditions?
Fighter pilots file after action reports. Football players review game films to go over what went well and what did not. Business leaders can use similar practices to use the past to help build the future.
The practice followed by many successful leaders is “review, reflect and revise”. This involves more than just evaluating the end game. It means applying the process to every plan, every play, every role and player from inception through to conclusion. This simple process leads to catching mistakes before they happen and become disasters, snatching success from the possibility of failure.
Rather than being the leader that celebrates every success and bemoans every failure, are you willing to join the league of leaders that uses an ongoing approach to continually learn lessons from what has come before and use them to advise their future?
Strategy and planning are a big part of business. Defining and declaring a clear vision for a company is a big step, but not the only big step in business success. Management retreats are a common venue for great minds to gather together to think and strategize about their company’s future. At the end of the retreat, strategies, objectives and goals have been set. In an ideal world, the executives go back to the day-to-day, energized by the plan they have created and expecting that the troops are going to buy in, fall in line and implement so that success will prevail. In the real world, habits die hard. Old mindsets, practices, policies and procedures still exist. They undermine and derail and, if not continually taken into consideration, will just plain suck the life out of any hopes for the new strategies being successful. How can we avoid this?
Let’s return to the retreat and allow for time to actually conduct a force field analysis. What’s that you ask? It’s an exercise to identify those forces that pull you closer to success and those that actually pull you closer and closer to disaster? This valuable exercise identifies the path to success and the forces that are obstacles standing in the way.
Good or bad, right or wrong, are you willing to find those forces that alter your company’s destiny?
How many small team meetings have you attended where leadership has allowed the conversation to go off topic and then off agenda in a heartbeat? One thought leads to another and then another, and before you know it left field is a distant memory. Expand this happening across an entire company on a daily, weekly and monthly basis and it is easy to understand how goals are missed, projects are not completed and ideas not turned into something truly tangible.
Company leaders need to be like orchestra leaders. They need to keep everybody playing the same music, in synch with everyone else. This requires both a soft touch, and when necessary, a heavy hand. And of course, more than anything, it requires an understanding of where “true north” is and the roadmap to get there. Then it takes the ability and the willingness to communicate it continuously so that folks don’t get lost.
Orchestras have to rehearse constantly to reach performance level. Organizations do too. Practice makes perfect, or as close to perfect as humans can get. Each department of a company, like each section of an orchestra, must collaborate with the others, and each individual within a section must collaborate with team members. Leaders have the role of keeping everyone, at every level, as focused as possible.
What would your company orchestra sound like?
Your employees seem happy. You haven’t really noticed any major discontent. But what are they saying to their family? Their friends? When was the last time you paid attention to the values you espouse and how they are being enacted in the workplace? Do you really know your current culture and how your employees feel about it?
Just as it is important to know what your customers are saying about your products and services, it is critical to understand your employees’ needs and concerns. What does it mean for your company if the employees are complaining about company integrity,lack of accountability, refusal or inability to innovate and lack of leadership? Do you want to know, or is ignorance bliss? And if you do know, what do you do about it- brush it off because what do they know anyway?
Leaders take heed. Employees are brand messengers and at the same time representatives of the culture. Don’t ignore their messages. Give them an opportunity to be heard at work and take seriously what they say. Compare what they say to what you would like them to be saying. How big is the gap? Do something or not? Ignore them at your own risk and the risk of your company’s sustainability.