Sunday, December 11, 2016

Ten Things

1. Getting an “A” on a test isn’t an indicator of intelligence.  
2. Mastery is more about motivation than it is a test answer.
3. Life presents a continuous opportunity to learn. 
4. Your stuff won’t make you happy.  Giving of yourself will.
5. Challenge what you know and embrace what you don’t know.
6. Ask yourself what matters.  Do that!
7. If you find yourself asking if something is right, you already have the answer.
8. Even when you do your best, failure happens.  Learn and move on.
9. Guilt about the past serves no purpose.
10. There is a genuine you in there.  Find it, be it.

Touchdowns and Home Runs

We Americans love our sports.  We love home runs, touchdown passes, shots from the top of the key, and Dale Earnhardt style passes in the grass.  It’s those big plays that get our attention.  But as many coaches will tell you, it isn’t always the big plays that win the game.  In any sport, winning requires factors like mastery of fundamentals, consistent execution of small plays and yes, patience.  Most coaches will tell you that they would rather coach people with workable egos coupled with the ability and willingness to master fundamentals; to master execution consistently over time.

There are parallels from sports to operating organizations.  While the media shines light on organizations that “took the big swing” and became successful, the majority of organizations become successful not because of the big swings, but because they pay attention to the increments.  They know that having a shared passion for a mission isn’t enough.  They know that daily, focused and consistent execution usually wins out.  They know that when they strive for continuous improvement, sustainable success is more likely.

Toyota Motor Corporation is a great example.  The Toyota Production System, or TPS, is grounded in innovation and mastery of process.  TPS isn’t some methodology that can be copied in other organizations; rather, it is a culture….a culture of unlimited ideas and flow of information.  It has carried Toyota through difficult times. 

Innovation strategist Matthew E. May gives some great perspective.  “Chasing perfection through relentless improvement builds the capability needed to achieve cross-company innovation. There’s no downside to growing a strong portfolio of small ideas. Dealing in smaller currency lets you experiment more, get results quicker, and learn faster.”

So if you want your organization to be successful over time, take Toyota’s lead.  Get good at the small stuff!

Passion Sustains Discipline; Discipline Delivers

Sometimes, people who work in non-profits and government seem to take on an attitude of entitlement, feeling that because there is no pressure from stockholders, they can operate at mediocre. I have seen this phenomenon repeated frequently, especially in government. I’m sure you have witnessed government workers who have said “it’s not my job”.  It seems that government and non-profits sometimes aim low.

In the non-profit sector, I’ve met many people who had loads of passion for the mission, but didn’t have the discipline to deliver their service with excellence. Process excellence along with a culture of continuous improvement becomes sustainable only when the element of passion marries with discipline. Passion is not the opposite of discipline; instead passion drives discipline. Passion sustains discipline; discipline delivers.

In a floundering non-profit, I could give you all of the documented processes and all of the Lean methodologies I have in my tool box, yet there might be little improvement. That’s because tools are not what makes organizations improve, culture is! Culture is a sustained mind-set, and that culture comes from the highest level of organizations. It’s easy to talk about continuous improvement; it is much more difficult to sustain a mind-set of continuous improvement.

Non-profits who don’t have a continuous improvement mind-set, and who don’t have the passion to sustain it, will flounder. Or they will aim low and hit their marks.

Serving Value - Beyond Profits and Metrics

We hear it so often.  “If we can’t make a profit, how can we operate?”  While that may be true, the overarching question might be “If we don’t serve value, how can we operate?” 

Let’s take a look the reasons organizations matter; the 4 P’s.  People, Purpose, Principle, and Process.  These ideas are not mutually exclusive.  Together, they form the basis of the mind-set necessary for continuous LEAN transformation.  Quality Products and Profits become the natural offshoot of this LEAN mind-set. Lean practitioners call sometimes call this the LEAN house.

The first question is “How might we develop people in terms of capability and customer focus.”   This is an important question in terms of building a culture of continuous improvement.  We need to be clear on this one when developing relationships with the most important people, customers.  This question requires deep diving!  Clearly, the leadership team needs to develop as well.  The questions for the leadership team are “What leadership qualities and management systems are required?” and “How will we develop those capabilities?”

The second question is “What is our purpose?”  Arriving at exactly why we do what we do is a central driver.  Asking how we drive value to the customer requires situational awareness.  It becomes our True North.

Third question; “What principles drive our business?”  The overarching ethics must be clear.  This question drives the culture.  Thought processes need to align with the ethics.

The fourth question about process is an important one as well; “How will we continuously improve the work?”  This involves the cycle of Set a Standard, Follow the Standard, Look for a Better Way.

Balancing the 4 P’s is the real challenge faced by organizations.  Metrics, including profit metrics, are the measurement tools we use to evaluate and adjust the 4 P’s.  Metrics are important outcomes, but shouldn’t be our main drivers.

So make balancing People, Purpose, Principle and Process central to your business model.  Doing so is decidedly Relationship Oriented, not Transaction Driven.

Organization-Wide Advocacy

Lisa Earle Mcleod, consultant and author, wrote a book called Leading with Noble Purpose.  She believes, as do I, that organizations having a mind-set based on noble purpose become truly successful.  Noble purpose centers around customers. When you make your customers a priority with laser focus, money becomes a metric, not a goal.

Let's look at this idea with a different spin; from the standpoint of advocacy.

Organizations are so much more than just entities; organizations are people.  These people, especially the leadership, form the company culture.  I've been in many organizations where adversarial relationships among employees is the norm.  It was almost as if this behavior is expected and encouraged.  Make no mistake; customers feel it!

Imagine an organization where employees have a mind-set of advocacy for each other.  Extrapolate this dynamic to the customer interaction.  Customers feel this too! When employees feel encouraged to advocate for each other, they will become their customer's best advocate as well.

This company culture can be achieved through thoughtful, mindful, compassionate, and passionate leadership.

The metrics, processes, products, and yes, the money are all important.  But the foundation of any organization is CULTURE!