Nick Frank, Founding Partner with Si2 Partners explains why profitable long term growth comes from having the right people in the right place at the right time and why technology although important, usually plays a secondary role...
In todays fast moving world this might be an “off- message” statement, but the truth is that it is still people who deliver profits. As a result creating ‘High Performance Teams’ or what some call the ‘Self Learning’ organisation has become a priority in staying competitive within the new digital economy.
Sustainable improvement requires a commitment to learning.
In successful organisations, this is embedded in the DNA of its people which drives themselves forward to deliver results that makes the real difference.
How does your team measure up? Perhaps a good place to start is to review how your teams manage problems and the language they use. Most technically orientated organisations pride themselves on solving problems.
Ironically, too strong an emphasis on problem solving does not necessarily drive the customer-orientated behaviours we are looking for. Problems are in fact very static, with a focus on past events.
If organisations are not careful, problems become a blame game, concentrating on why things cannot be done.
The resulting solutions are often focused on customers, are dynamic in nature and focused on the future. The language of solutions concentrates on ‘Yes and…’, seeking possibilities and opportunities. It is in fact solution thinking that really drives the organisation forward in creating competitive advantage.
A self learning organisation is one that has the rigour to identify and quantify problems, yet the discipline to shift to solution thinking, develop forward momentum and achieve results.
This problem-solution-problem-solution learning loop sounds fairly straight forward, but actually requires a level of management maturity that is often surprisingly missing from many organisations.
As Winston Churchill pointed out, learning is all about engagement: “Where my reason, imagination or interest were not engaged, I would not or could not learn”
So how do we go about creating a culture of ‘self learning’, which is deeply embedded in the corporate DNA. In most businesses, focussing on two important aspects of organisations can really make a difference. The first is a strong vision of what the company is all about, why it is there, what it is trying to achieve for its customers and how.
More important than the vision statement’s words, is the way that it is communicated.
Successful communication comes from:
- Targeting your message: For example Field Service Techs have very different drivers from their Product Sales colleagues.
- Augmenting logical reasoning with an emotional appeal that inspires employees to do things differently.
The second aspect is Values.
A company’s values are the core of its culture. While a vision articulates a company’s purpose, values offer a set of guidelines on the behaviours and mindsets needed to achieve that vision. While many companies find their values revolve around a few simple topics (employees, clients, professionalism), the originality of those values is less important than their authenticity.
Developing a culture that is aligned to values and vision is what provides people with a purpose, and this is the key to facilitating innovation.
Organisations that successfully create a self-learning environment typically start to see:
- Problem being solved systematically
- Experimentation with new approaches to work
- Learning from other companies and a focus on customers solutions
- Greater knowledge transfer through out the organisation
- An acceptance that change is normal and to be embraced
To get the ball rolling does not necessarily require large complex change projects. For example at Amazon, every person who wants to pitch a new idea to the management, is asked to describe it as a press release written on the day that the idea is launched. This press release, together with a list of ‘Frequently Asked Questions’ is what Amazon executives use to judge whether there is real value in the innovation.
This relatively simple idea forces everyone to focus on outcomes and solutions.
If you sense that your teams are struggling to execute on new opportunities that are arising in this digital age, or are becoming to focused on problems and falling into the blame game, then perhaps it is time to think about how you can evolve the dynamics of your organisation
So if you sense that your teams are struggling to execute on new opportunities that are arising in this digital age, or are becoming to focused on problems and falling into the blame game, then perhaps it is time to think about how you can evolve the dynamics of your organisation.
Using a 3rd party to help leaders gain new perspectives can be useful, because people listen more to a new voice. However, at the end of the day it is the Leadership at all levels in the organisation who by taking reasonably simple steps can set expectations, ‘Walk the Talk!’ and move the organisation on.
Nick can be contacted on nick.frank@Si2partners.com. Si2 ON-Demand is a unique advisory and support service that enables top performing leaders to solve problems and get things done, quickly, easily and cost effectively.