Wednesday, August 08, 2007

"Set me a task in which I can put something of my very self, and it is a task no longer; it is joy; it is art." Bliss Carman

"You may know for a certainty that if your work is becoming uninteresting, so are you; for work is an inanimate thing and can be made lively and interesting only by injecting yourself into it. Your job is only as big as you are." George Hubbs

"Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in action; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny." Tryon Edwards

What > Why > How

The beginning of progress is to understand where we are. Perspective becomes valuable. Collected wisdom becomes a priceless advantage.

We must begin with the what and the why. The ever present temptation being to jump ahead to the how. The old saw applies "Prescription without diagnosis is malpractice."

There is a measurable clarity, a strategic acuity, that comes from a deep understanding of the what and the why. Once we possess this the how is driven by purpose and focus.

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity" so said General George S. Patton, Jr. Georgie was right. We must first be preoccupied with the what. Thereafter, we must come to fully comprehend the why.

Leadership is responsible for results
Don't confuse activity with progress

When we encounter complex business problems we begin by getting an understanding of the what and the why. One place to start is the evaluation of activity. In these cases the key question should be why. "That's the way we've always done it" may fail to properly answer the why however it should prompt the intellectually honest discussion required to move forward.

What would have to happen?
For us to be rated #1
For us to be the #1 revenue producer
For us to achieve a 60% operating margin

For years we have used this exercise with great success: we ask the entire staff to imagine "what would have to happen."

Experience has taught us the most effective approach is to spend time one-on-one with each person. Put a sign-up sheet on your door and allow staff to chose the time of their meeting. During the meeting the role of the manager is to listen. Take careful and complete notes, taking in not only the thoughts and the ideas but also, importantly, the tone, the nuances of attitude and belief.

The simple truth is your staff has the answers. All the answers. The solutions you need to win. Listen to them. Dare to be naive.

Tomorrow: After the one-on-one meetings - creating the plan.