Articles tagged "Vision"
Unlike the movie City Slickers in which Billy Crystal's character realizes that "The One Thing" in life that will make you happy is different for everyone, in business, we must make it very clear to all of our employees what The One Thing is we're trying to achieve as an organization. If we don't, our employees may inadvertently waste tons of time, money, energy, and other resources by working towards other things.
The need to talk about The One Thing (or for those of you familiar with my passion for Strategic Planning - your Vision) struck me head-on again last week. I was working with several new clients on various issues ranging from Marketing Strategies to Time Management Techniques, and each client's core problem, once properly identified, led to the same issue: these clients’ employees don't know what their respective organization is really trying to achieve, so the employees don't really know how they fit it, so they can't really help as effectively as they should. However, management didn't see it that way -- they thought the employees really didn't understand their jobs or worse - just didn't care.
Take this simple challenge, walk around and ask five to ten random employees, "What is the number one thing this organization is trying to achieve?" If you get roughly the same answer from each of the employees, you've done an excellent - and I mean excellent - job of communicating your vision and creating focus for your employees. If your question is answered with confused looks, "I don't knows", or five to ten different answers, you've not yet done the one thing employees need from you to help them do their jobs well -- direction, focus, a target (i.e., a Vision).
Let your employees know specifically what it is you want your organization to achieve and how their jobs fit in. Let them know how each job can help move your organization closer to its vision.
Let them know what "The One Thing" is - don't make them figure it out for themselves. This isn't a movie -- it's your business.
A client recently asked me for guidance on how she should gauge her managers' understanding of their organization's strategic plan. She doesn't believe her managers fully appreciate how important their roles are in ensuring the plan succeeds. She fears they believe it is up to the executive staff to make it happen and ensure the longevity of the organization. I suggested she have an individual meeting with each manager and ask each manager ten little, but very insightful questions.
What will this organization look like when we successfully implement our plan?
Have them describe changes in physical facilities, the employee population and makeup, customer mix, organizational culture, product and service offerings, etc. This question forces them to tell her what they see as success - or the vision. Their answers will let her know if they are clear on what they are all supposed to be working towards.
What will your department look like when we successfully implement the plan?
Again, this question gives her insight into their ability to anticipate tangible and intangible changes in their own departments.
Given the above, what are your top five initiatives planned for your department to ensure it and the overall organization meet its vision?
Here, she needs to ensure they provide her with specific projects they are undertaking or will undertake. Their answers will also give her an idea of their project planning skills.
What challenges do you anticipate in implementing these five initiatives?
Their answers will help her determine if their strategic thinking skills account for challenges and if they do or do not get bogged down by them.
What specific actions can you take to work around these challenges?
Their answers will give her an indication of their problem solving abilities.
What support do you believe is critical from other departments or other people within the organization?
Again, their answers will indicate their problem solving skills.
Within your department, who have you identified to help you with this project?
This question helps identify how seriously they take this project. Have they delegated it to someone else or are they building a team within the department to work on the plan?
What training or skills would be helpful for you or your staff to have as you implement this project in your department?
Their answers will give her an idea of what skills are missing and what training, if any, they believe they need.
What new skills do you believe your staff will need once this project is completed?
Here again, she will get an idea of her manager's ability to project staff and departmental growth and skill development needs.
What could I do to help you the most through this project?
This final question opens the door for them to identify for her what they do and do not need from her.
These ten little questions provide insight into not only a manager's strategic thinking abilities but also to a manager's problem solving and employee development planning skills. Ten little questions that help the person asking the questions, as well as the managers answering them.
Ten little questions that could help your organization too.
According to the US Labor Department “by 2008 the growth of the U.S. Workforce is projected to drop to near zero and remain at that level for the next 25 years. This is the consequence of a vast exodus of 79 million U.S. baby boomers who will retire from the workforce between 2010 and 2015. Hiring new employees will become more problematic as wages increase for the fewer people with the right skills."*
Pretty sobering isn't it? However, for anyone paying attention to the news for the past several years, this should not be new information—just a reaffirmation of more challenges coming our way as employers. So how do we confront it?
Provide an environment our employees want to be a part of—now and in the future.
We need to continue to create business environments our employees want to come to and participate in on a regular basis, versus a job they do not look forward to each and every day. If they dread coming to work, they certainly will stop coming when they can retire or some other company lures them away with more money. We can improve our work environment for our employees through a number of ways depending upon what our respective organization and employees need.
- Clean up the place. This sounds petty to many, but I can't tell you the number of times I have had to strongly recommend to clients that before they spend any money on consultants and other experts to fix their employees, they would increase their return on any such investment if they first cleared away the gathered clutter, bought filing cabinets, threw away broken equipment that was stockpiled in corners, organized their inventory and supplies, and hired a janitorial service to regularly clean the facility—particularly the restrooms.
- Hold all employees (including ourselves) accountable to abide by the Values of our company—day in and day out. Again, this sounds touchy-feely to some of you, but after working with various organizations for 20 years, I have seen the attitudes and focus in employees shift positively when they know and understand what standards of performance and behavior they will be held to and then are.
Provide continuous, serious training to our current employees to keep them engaged, in step with technology, and learning new aspects of our business' operations.
A recent study by Korn/Ferry showed that 51% of the executives surveyed indicated they were at least "Likely" to choose a different career field, because it provided the possibility of learning something new. Other studies are also indicating that more people nearing retirement are planning to continue to work, at least on a part-time basis, to keep engaged, learning, and current. Given this, doesn't it make sense to provide additional opportunities for our employees to learn new and challenging skills with us instead of having one of our competitors hire them away?
Again, there are no easy answers. But if we start to prepare now for the serious challenges ahead, our employees can (and will) collaborate with us to find strong solutions to the shrinking labor pool.
* “Balance Short-Term Profit with Long-Term Investment in Human Capital” Benefits & Compensation Digest (July 2006)
I never met Robert 'Tink' Lehmer. I wish I had. He thought the way great leaders think. I say this because of a little poem he wrote in 1976.
Tink's poem was shared during a Leadership Training program graduation ceremony I recently attended. My hope for the graduates is that they paid attention and took his words to heart. If the graduates did, his words will serve them well.
(Written June 11, 1976)
I want to be fit for myself to know
I want to be able as days go by
Always to look myself straight in the eye
I don't want to stand with the setting sun
And hate myself for the things I've done
I want to go out with my head erect
I want to deserve all men's respect
For here in the struggle for love and self
I want to be able to like myself
I don't want to look at myself and know
That I am plastic and bluff an empty show
I never can hide myself from me
I see what others may never see
I never can fool myself and so
Whatever happens I want to be
Self-respecting and conscience free.
~ Robert 'Tink' Lehmer (May 26, 1940 - September 22, 2011)
I recently had lunch with a consulting colleague. He'd just left a client meeting and was rubbing his temples in an attempt to ease a headache. When I asked if there was something specific bothering him, he replied, "Why are people so afraid to take responsibility and do their jobs?" Apparently during the meeting it had become obvious the project would need additional work as my colleague had pointed out gaps in the team's initial planning. However, as my colleague asked each of the four team members how they intended to fill the gaps, he was met with the universal reply, "That's not my job."