By Ralph Welborn and Vince Kasten
- Make visible what is invisible through “experiential workshops.” It’s the unseen little things (the things you don’t know about your own business processes) that create the biggest problems. The exceptions, the workarounds, the embedded business logic in applications that were added in over time in response to customer changes–these are the tiny grains of sand that make the shellfish inedible. You must identify these little things so critical to your big things to be able to bridge the gap between what management wants to do and what happens operationally. Conduct “experiential workshops” to dig quickly but deeply into 1) your objectives, 2) your requirements, 3) your understanding of what happens in specific areas, and 4) your near-invisible workarounds, exceptions, and “embedded activities, tools, and applications” that are the real muscles and sinews that determine what really happens, and how effectively. These workshops help you identify and understand the “experience” of all those involved (people, processes, assets, and technology). Not only will they help you avert disaster, but they may help you turn the “invisible sand” in your processes into a pearl.
- Work to bridge the disconnects between everyone involved in getting things done. Different groups speak different languages. Marketing people, management people, operations people, IT people, financial people: they can all be in the same meeting, yet come out thinking they agreed to do entirely different things. This sense of disconnect–in terms of expectations, of actions, of languages–would be almost comical if it didn’t breed so much rework, costs, and frustrations. It’s more than just a disagreement over words. A lack of common understanding of, say, what an “account” is or what constitutes a “customer” leads to different teams doing different things perpetuating divisions of expectations and activities. You need a common DNA of Execution that allows everyone to align themselves in the pursuit of the same goal. In our work with clients, we provide some simple tools and methods–elements of what we call Business Blueprints–that expose the implications of these differences and show how to bridge them to mobilize the very different yet very necessary differing perspectives of your very different teams in a consistent way to get done what you need to get done. That way, the T-shirts (operations folks), Turtlenecks (marketing folks), and Suits (management folks) can communicate–and execute–with each other clearly, consistently, and productively.
- Recognize the employee loyalty shift–and support it. The move from “vertical” to “horizontal” loyalty–from identifying oneself as part of a corporation to identifying oneself as an entity aligned with peers, friends, and associates–has major implications on how to get things done more effectively. The rapid mistrust many people have regarding upper management has forced them, understandably, to look elsewhere for support and professional development. When you consider the proliferation of wired means of community networking–Google, blogs, and so forth–you can see that the “horizontal loyalty” trend will only accelerate in the future. Corporations, if you can’t beat ’em, join ’em! Here are a few suggestions:
- Develop means to set up as many communities of practice around specific skill-sets and areas of focus as possible. This provides a way for people to “seek out, set up, and support each other” around topics of their own interest.
- Establish small SWOT teams to address specific business problems. Set a clearly defined goal but loosely defined set of methods as to how to meet that goal. Commit to supporting whatever recommendations the teams figure out.
- Aggressively support outside associations, education, and networking opportunities. Your folks will find them anyway. You must enhance your employees’ knowledge and capabilities to grow, professionally and personally. If you don’t, the competition will.
- Conduct “visibility” workshops to trace “what connects with what, where, when, how, and how much.” When you make a change, you must be aware of what impact that change will have throughout your organization. Yet, too often, the knowledge of “what connects with what”–from business process through technology infrastructure–is cloudy, if not shrouded in deepest darkness. It is precisely such darkness that leads to the “gotchas”: the surprises and the sudden disruptions in service that can be so time-consuming and costly. You can illuminate these connections (and eliminate much frustration and finger pointing) by conducting specific workshops that focus on a specific business objective. This allows you to model and map the connectivity from business objectives and metrics through business processes through software applications and infrastructure.
- Realize that you can’t go it alone. Collaborate! Business opportunities need to be responded to on a dime. You can’t do it by yourself. No organization has all the resources to do so. Yet, too many of them give it the ol’ college try. Yet, just any partnership won’t do. There are as many kinds of business collaborative models as there are business objectives. It’s critical that your business objectives fit the appropriate “collaborative” relationship you enter into. Period. The days of choosing among “managing costs” or “growth” or “creating innovation” are over. You need to be able to do all: as one of our clients said, “managing the impossible decisions between managing costs while growing revenue while fostering innovation.” Collaboration is becoming one of the core competencies of any effective and successful company. Don’t just consider it. Do it.