Businesses normally describe what they do. “We sell apples”.” We are accountants”. It’s not meaningful if you’re trying to explain to someone why they should buy from you. You’re not talking in your customer’s terms. You’re not even asking them what they want, or what job they think they need to get done.
Describing how you do it helps with this. Saying that you use lots of modern technology, are very quick and efficient, make sure you hit deadlines helps, but you’re still leaving the customer to work out exactly what it means to them.
Describing why you do what you do sorts this out. It also produces a real benefit: you get more meaning and enjoyment out of what you do, and so does everybody that works with you. Having your team fully engaged makes the whole work process easier and better so that your customer gets more of what he or she wants as well. We’ve talked about how to do this in our Lean Growth module – available soon
The key element is the team. That’s how you get your growth because you can rely on them to understand fully why you’re doing things, not just the process of doing them, so they can make an intelligent decision on your behalf. As long as that is in the customer’s best interests, it’s likely to be in yours as well. Being able to rely on your team means that you can let growth happen without having to think you have to do it all yourself. Nothing will come crashing down around your ears because you’ve lost focus on one aspect. Somebody else in your team will be looking out for you, ready to catch any dropping ball.
All well and good, but how do you get your team into that happy state? We’ve listened and spoken to a lot of the leading management thinkers in the world. Everybody is pretty much in agreement that we need to sort out our economies and to do that we need to have meaningful work to enable everybody’s full potential and capacity to be realised for their individual good as well as their employers, the economy and society generally. As always with this high-level thinking, there’s plenty of good research and evidence to support it, and some examples in real life companies, and that number of companies is growing. We had some input into one of the Creative Economy posts published on the Forbes website and presented at one of the sessions in the Drucker Forum 2014 recently, which gives a flavour of current thinking.
That’s all very well, but how do you make it relevant to individual businesses – to you? We already do quite a lot of work with strategic planning, leadership and management with our clients who lead their businesses. We spend time on aligning their personal and business objectives. We know when we start in business why we are doing it, and our personal objectives are generally congruent with the business ones, but over time they diverge and quite often the business ones become dominant. We’ve talked about this before in blogs. What we’ve not talked about is how powerful aligning the personal and business objectives is. When we get these back into alignment, which is doesn’t take long, we then move to looking at the business from the customer’s perspective. These three elements (personal, business and customer) are not often always in sync, and getting this resolved produces subtle but powerful forces for positive change.
Coupled with the rest of our strategy work, we commonly see businesses transforming quite quickly into being much easier to run, with a team that understands the business better, and with strong growth and increased profit.
Thinking back to the thought leadership elements in the creative economy paper, and linking this with the personal and business objectives work that we do, we think that the key to fully involving your team and getting the absolute best out of them is to simply discover in a structured way what their personal objectives are and how they fit with what they are doing for your business now and in the future. Some won’t fit, and you need to be prepared for that conversation. Some will show scope for improvement. You need to provide some support for those individuals. Whatever the results, having the conversation and judiciously sharing business objectives will enable you to get people very much more onside, much more engaged, and much more able to take decisions which you can trust. This will allow you the flexibility for intelligent decisions by helpful people, and remove the necessity to put in too much rigidity, systems and processes.
This joins up the Why to the How and What, and makes it very easy for a clear consistent message to be transmitted right through from stakeholders, customers, colleagues (management and employees if you must) and suppliers. This clarity and consistency pays dividends.
If your team is very small, then this process is easy – you can have a conversation with everybody. If your team is larger and there are levels of supervision or management in your business, then you have to trickle that down and teach each person responsible for others – in other words each manager or supervisor – how to do this. You don’t have to do it all in one go, because just doing this for your direct reports will have a positive impact, and as soon as they appreciate the benefit they will be doing it on down the line. There are businesses of reasonable size – one being Morning Star in California, which employs 4000 people – who have such a flat management structure that effectively nobody has a boss because they are all so engaged with the business and are capable of making decisions knowing how they will affect it. This approach does work well; although Morning Star does not do it at the level that we are suggesting you could. So potentially you could have a better result than Morning Star, which has grown to be the largest and most profitable tomato processor in the world.
It’s up to you. We have the tools and we have proved that they work if you would like to use them.