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Organizational Excellence : The Power of Purpose

Posted by kevinb on 11/26/18 (99 reads)

Building a Strong Business Foundation

One of the most memorable experiences I had during my corporate years was doing consulting work with a non-profit organization as part of a management development program. My cohort was asked to bring our experience and skills to help a group of nonprofits more effectively achieve their mission.

What impressed me the most was the level of passion the volunteers demonstrated for the work they were doing. It was truly a labor of love. Although my colleagues and I had the resources that come with for-profit companies, we were envious of the level of enthusiasm and commitment that powered the efforts of the nonprofits. It was eye-opening.

And it made me reflect on whether a for-profit business could ever inspire the same level of passion and dedication. For a long time, I didn't think it was possible; but lately I've changed my mind. I think it is possible - through the power of purpose.

Understanding Purpose

The Oxford Dictionary defines "purpose" as "The reason for which something is done or created or for which something exists". Purpose is related to, but distinct from, the other foundational elements of organization strategy like vision, mission and values.

You may be thinking, "Isn't the purpose of a business to make as much money as possible"? The answer is a resounding "NO". Profit is necessary to STAY in business, but it's NOT the reason a business exists.  

Organizational Excellence : Put Your (Six) Thinking Caps On

Posted by kevinb on 10/15/18 (2377 reads)

There are many methodologies to choose from to help us think differently, but one of my favorites is Six Thinking Hats. Developed by Edward de Bono, a pioneer in brain training and lateral thinking, Six Thinking Hats is a deceivingly simple and highly practical tool for enabling creativity, problem-solving and teamwork.

The basis of Six Thinking Hats is "parallel thinking", a term coined by de Bono. Unlike traditional adversarial thinking, which tends to be confrontational and seeks to prove or disprove a statement or hypothesis, "parallel thinking" describes a disciplined approach that follows several tracks in order to uncover all sides of a subject.

Although an individual can certainly use this technique on their own, it is most effective with groups. By deconstructing the thinking process and "wearing one hat at a time", all participants examine an issue from a series of perspectives. It is a highly cooperative method that opens up opportunities for thinking differently - the very definition of creativity!

Using the Six Thinking Hats

Like any effective problem-solving process, it is critical to begin with a clear statement of the issue at hand. And like any group process, it is important to identify the right participants, including the optimal number of people and which areas of expertise need to be represented.

Organizational Excellence : Creativity and Innovation in the Workplace

Posted by kevinb on 8/23/18 (421 reads)

A common discourse in the workplace these days is how to improve creativity and innovation, which can be central to an organization's performance and sustainability. As the knowledge-based, interconnected global marketplace continues to move ahead at warp speed, it will become increasingly critical to be competitive. This will require different approaches and strategies to address and solve problems. Creativity and innovation will provide the underpinning for action. Creativity is defined as the mental and social process (conscious or unconscious) of generating ideas and concepts, while innovation is the successful exploration of new ideas or the outcome of the creative process.

Common types of innovations relate to product, service, and organizational (procedural or process) and are typically market-led or market-push innovations. The others are technology-led, for which markets must be developed.

Here are some leadership practices that warrant consideration to foster creative and innovative core behaviors for your employees:

Organizational Excellence : Employee Engagement: Having a Great Day at Work

Posted by kevinb on 3/22/18 (576 reads)

Think about the last time you had a great day at work. What made it great? I like to think that when you have a great day at work, then you've had an engaged day at work. Studies and surveys show, however, that in the U.S., employee engagement is low; with only about 2 in 3 employees being engaged at work. That means that one-third of us (gulp!) are either not engaged or are actively disengaged. Far too few workers in the U.S. are having predominantly great days at work.

BlessingWhite (a Division of GP Strategies) views that an engaged organization is one where employees reach maximum job satisfaction while at the same time make a significant contribution to the goals of their team and the organization as a whole. True engagement happens when there is a mutually beneficial relationship between the organization and the employee, an alignment between what the organization needs (maximum contribution) and what their employees want (maximum satisfaction).

So, what does high employee engagement look like?

Organizational Excellence : 11 Commandments for an Enthusiastic Team

Posted by kevinb on 2/16/18 (1614 reads)

In cleaning out some old files, I came across a single sheet of paper with a typed list entitled "11 Commandments for an Enthusiastic Team." I couldn't recall its source, but a Google search led me to a book by Ian Percy of the same name (subtitled Collaborating with Purpose and Passion), published in 2003.

Regardless of the age of this list, these 11 items are all still relevant today, so I wanted to share; along with some comments of my own.

1.  Help each other be right - rather than wrong

It's easy to over-rely on who's supposedly right and wrong as a determining factor, but what's the bigger picture? Think about what's important and what you are trying to accomplish, rather than feeding your ego or keeping score.

2.  Look for ways to make new ideas work - rather than for reasons they won't

Too often we have the mindset of: "We've tried that before." "That just won't work." "We don't do things that way." Instead, try: "What if we try it again?" "What if we look at it differently?" "Who could we speak with to get a different perspective?" or "What would we do to make this work if it was our only option?"

Organizational Excellence : Executing on Growth with an MOS

Posted by kevinb on 12/12/17 (751 reads)

One plus one, does not always equal two. The truth is that, as your organization grows and adds staff, operations become exponentially more complex. Let's take a look at how to help address some of those challenges.

When business owners or leaders drive for growth, the natural focus is on initiatives like marketing and sales campaigns; innovation of new products and services; and ensuring capacity is sufficient to meet increased demand. Underlying all of those actions, however, is the fact that it takes people to execute them.

As a business grows, so does the number of employees. More employees mean more complexity, which increases the risk for confusion and inefficiency unless leaders intentionally put a structure and approach in place to guide and manage outcomes. One of the best ways to align and prioritize the efforts of people in a growing organization is to have an effective MOS: Management Operating System.

Organizational Excellence : Fostering Accountability

Posted by kevinb on 11/21/17 (649 reads)

As a supplement to our post entitled Creating a Culture of Accountability from February, here are some thoughts that should help when you are attempting to foster accountability.

Strive for clarity in five areas:

1. Clear expectations. The first step is to be crystal clear about what you expect. This means being clear about the outcome you're looking for, how you'll measure success, and how people should go about achieving the objective. It doesn't all have to come from you. In fact, the more skilled your people are, the more ideas and strategies should be coming from them. Have a genuinely two-way conversation, and before it's over, ask the other person to summarize the important pieces - the outcome they're going for, how they are going to achieve it, and how they'll know whether they're successful - to make sure you're ending up on the same page. Writing out a summary is a good idea but doesn't replace saying it out loud.

Organizational Excellence : Key Differences Between Training and Development

Posted by kevinb on 11/6/17 (1297 reads)

Companies spend a lot of time and money on recruiting the best talent possible, and one way to assure a return on that people investment is to have a formalized plan for both initial training and ongoing development. In the first days, weeks and months of employment, the focus needs to be on effective onboarding, which consists of orientation and training to learn about the organization and the basics of a new role. Once an employee is acclimated and productive, keeping the focus on ongoing growth and improvement yields benefits for the person and the organization.

Although TRAINING and DEVELOPMENT are sometimes used interchangeably, they are actually two different processes with distinct attributes and value to employees and the business.   

1)  Focus

The focus of TRAINING is on equipping people to perform the JOB or ROLE. It is all about ensuring the ABILITY to complete required tasks. Training applies to employees who are new to the company or to a position, as well as to existing employees who need to add or improve skills as technology and business needs change. Training exists primarily to meet organizational requirements and, as such, it is a company-centric process

Organizational Excellence : Book Summary: "Getting Naked" by Patrick Lencioni

Posted by kevinb on 9/27/17 (2271 reads)

A Business Fable About Shedding the Three Fears that Sabotage Client Loyalty

Let's first address the obvious: this book has an eye-catching and even provocative title. However, what Lencioni is referring to as "getting naked" is the willingness to be vulnerable, for consultants, service providers...really any person or any organization. He views that vulnerability is one of the most undervalued and misunderstood of all human emotions and that "there is no better way to earn a person's trust than by putting ourselves in a position of unprotected weakness and demonstrating that we believe they will support us."

Yet society encourages us to avoid vulnerability, to always project strength, confidence, and poise, and when it comes to important, ongoing relationships, doing so stifles our ability to build trust. It runs counter to the old adage never let them see you sweat because we should, instead, acknowledge our sweatiness and show clients that we are honest and self-assured enough to be worthy of their trust. And that, ultimately, it is our honesty, humility, and selflessness that will endear us to our clients and allow them to trust and depend on us as real partners.

Organizational Excellence : Cultivating a Culture of Fairness

Posted by kevinb on 7/24/17 (1490 reads)

Everybody wants to believe that they are being treated equally, with the same set of rules and the same consistency when it comes to meeting expectations.

"That's not fair!" This is one of the first protests we learn about when we are young. Whether it is in response to punishment by parents, a grade given by a teacher, or a rule infraction by schoolmates on the playground, children show an instinctual dislike of getting the "short end of the stick". Psychologists refer to this as "disadvantageous-inequity aversion". (see related article in The New Yorker) Getting less than others is perceived to be an insult and a demotion in social status. It's no wonder that when we grow up and transition into the competitive work world, our opinion of how fairly (or not) we are being treated continues to strongly impact our thinking and behaviors.

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