LEVERAGING YOUR ORGANIZATION’S MOST POWERFUL ASSET
If you ask senior leaders: “What is the most important resource in your company?” 99 times out of 100 you will hear them say “It’s our people”. After all, that IS the right answer. Not to mention the countless business books and articles that validate this as a fact, coupled with a corporate culture that reinforces it. You might say it is a truism. Yet if you take a close look into many companies, it is often difficult to tell that the leaders really know just how powerful engaging their employees can be. Perhaps even more ironic, it sometimes seems like the company’s plan is to keep their key people in the dark and try to “sneak” the strategy by without “disturbing the work” or getting employees involved in a meaningful way.
It seems that knowing the value of engaging employees as a concept and putting it into action are two very different things.
Much of the work of our firm is focused on strategic implementation in large organizations. We place a high premium on our clients leveraging their employees’ talents, skills and involvement to ensure successful implementation. Y et, when entering a new client system, it is rare to see leaders who instinctively or naturally engage the employees in the implementation of their strategy. It seems like gaining buy-in is the obvious thing to achieve, but instead we find that many leaders assume it, which can be a fatal error. On the other hand, when leaders are able to do this effectively — it results in inspired employees who have clarity and ownership for where the company is going. This usually leads to unprecedented business success, added value and employee satisfaction. BINGO!
We have found that some of the most important actions an executive can take in executing a strategy are to:
Hierarchy of Needs
American psychologist Abraham Harold Maslow (1908 – 1970) is considered the father of humanistic psychology and is known for his theory that that there is a “hierarchy of human needs” that determines human motivation. The first in this
hierarchy of our needs Maslow called “animal survival needs” (food, water, reproduction, shelter, instinctual behavior). As each set of needs is met, we progress toward the next level, which, in turn, allows us to pursue and fulfill a whole new set of human needs. According to Maslow, as we satisfy these needs, we pass through a series of five levels that both expand in complexity and broaden our perspective and ability to make an impact in life. While this progression takes place, we increase our awareness, our attention and our focus to a larger set of concerns. This progression culminates with “self actualization”- becoming the best of who we are meant to be as the highest level.
As you can see from the following diagram, the highest levels are about being more outwardly directed. In the fourth and fifth levels, we begin to turn our attention outward toward others, as opposed to focusing on our own needs as was required and appropriate in the early levels. The two highest levels allow us to look out into the world and imagine how we might make the world a better place to be. My experience tells me that people want to make a difference more than anything else. When they find themselves in a position to contribute, they will strive to do so. Most people will go to great lengths to contribute to a worthwhile cause if they know that they can succeed and, therefore, matter.Read More
Chartering a Breakthrough
Move through a large organization, and you will likely find many dedicated people who are working hard on company priorities that are designed to add value, grow the business or innovate. These organizations are targeting big things, yet individuals and teams can find themselves stalled in their quest for accomplishing the extraordinary. So often, when our firm is invited in to work with such companies, we hear people say, “We have a history of lots of take-offs, but we have very few landings.” What this statement means is that a lot of projects get started, but few of them really deliver their intended results. Targeting, executing and delivering Breakthrough results are highly valued skills. It is not unusual for us to be invited to work in areas where there are both big opportunities and an insufficient structure in place to capture these gains.
We most often address this dilemma by suggesting that whatever extraordinary results an organization is committed to producing will require imaginative, breakthrough thinking in the company. A powerful way to trigger the imagination and stimulate breakthrough thinking is to write a charter. We assert that any project that is attempting to accomplish the unlikely or unpredictable needs a charter.
A charter is a written document that serves as a performance contract for a designated project or intended set of work objectives. However, it is a performance contract that targets unprecedented results. Our firm has found that when a charter is written well, launched powerfully, and managed with integrity, extraordinary results will be achieved.
What is Context?
People often ask us why we focus so much on context and why we put such a premium on the discussion about context in our approach to organizational transformation. We have discovered that no other single area of focus seems to have the kind of impact and leverage in an organization that context has. Understanding what context is and, most importantly, being clear about how context works can empower senior leaders to make an extraordinary difference in their transformation effort.
Let’s start with the dictionary definition of context:
Context: The circumstances that form the setting for an event, statement, or idea, and in terms of which it can be fully understood.
Context comes from Middle English words meaning “together” plus “to weave.”
So you see, context is everything that surrounds a particular subject. Not only is context in the background, it is the background. It is the place from which people think. Context has the power to shape what we think and what we know. It is only when we are aware of the context for a specific situation, can that situation – in the dictionary’s terms – “be fully understood.”
*Some of the concepts from this article are derived from the work of Werner Erhard and are used with permission.Read More