Somehow running a business or team within a business of more than about 30 people can appear to be extremely complex. Of course we have the option to make it complex, but the secret of success is to keep it simple.
Over the last month I have been doing a lot of strategy/culture/leadership work for a variety of organisations ranging from a small but global medical business to a global energy giant – including an international charity. I have also read Bryce Hoffman’s excellent “American Icon” about the astonishing turnaround at Ford over the last six years.
The totally transferrable secrets of success are:
1 – Have a clear vision of what you seek to achieve that is compelling for all stakeholders. It is absolutely essential that the vision is not a selfish one, like to become the number 1 in your market. It needs to be something that staff, customers, suppliers and others can be equally motivated by. It needs to be clearly and briefly articulated in just a few words.
2 – Agree a clear set of behaviours/values/culture and make sure the leaders role model it all of the time. The values need to be aligned with the vision and the strategy, for example if the vision is requires innovation, the team will have to behave innovatively. If the vision requires safety, the team will have to behave safely. Do not compromise on the values – if people are unwilling or unable to live by them, they will leave.
3 – Articulate a strategy in four lines, make it clear and memorable so that everyone knows what they are doing. Have each discipline (sales/finance etc) break out the strategy into their own four line strategy that delivers on the overall. Repeat the overall strategy endlessly until it is part of the fabric of the organisation at all levels. If people cannot remember and repeat it – it is too long and too complicated.
4 – Link recognition, rewards and discipline to behaviours and strategy. Celebrate, recognise and reward behaviours and achievements that are inline with the values and the strategy. Act quickly on behaviours that are not, this does not mean sacking people, but making it very clear what is desirable and what is not.
5 – Measure stuff and share it. Identify the key metrics towards the vision/strategy and values. Have clear responsibility and accountability for each one and have your top team share them with each other, face to face and more widely at least weekly, using a common format. If there are issues arising from the data, follow up with break out meetings for all who can help and work out what you are going to do about it. Ensure that there is no blame attached to data that is below expectations – honesty is more important than scapegoats.
6 – Think holonically, and cascade the process through the business with each team having its own vision, values, strategy, recognition and measurements that are complimentary to the overall, ensuring that they deliver their part of the bigger picture. Every team is both whole in itself and part of a larger whole.
7 – Love, this strongly links back to number one and this is probably the hardest bit to deliver, but unless there is a strong sense of love for the vision, the organisation, the strategy, the results, the stakeholders and each other – none of the above will work. Love is the bit beyond the rational. If we run our businesses rationally then everything is transactional. There is no loyalty, emotion or honour in a rational system – only logic. People are only as good as their last performance. This is why the vision has to be valuable (lovable) for all stakeholders. It is also about caring for people (customers, staff and suppliers) as people.
The businesses and organisations that are able to hold a consistent discipline around these seven areas succeed and while consistency is essential over years, it is also vital to be humble and nimble enough to adjust to circumstances. The businesses that are able to succeed on these seven areas will also be able to deliver the best returns to shareholders. Counter culturally keeping the focus on delivering value to all stake holders is the best way to deliver value to shareholders.
As part of the Kraft workshop I made some posters of inspiring quotes featuring Steve Jobs, Lady Gaga, Richard Branson, Sir Henry Royce and Gandhi. You can download these from my website – just click on the “free” link at www.neilcrofts.com. They are good enough quality to print at A2.
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