Today’s leaders know that the key to success is creating and aligning resources to satisfy customers at the highest level at the lowest possible cost. Some believe the latest organizational tool or leadership fad is the silver bullet to achieve this end. Unfortunately, these quick-fix tools and fads often result in short-term gains, and ultimately fall flat and even diminish after the leaders have moved onto the next tool. Sustainability and engagement of all employees in the continuous improvement of the business is a widespread challenge that business leaders face.
Leadership principles, philosophies, and tools are vital in developing high-performing continuous improvement organizations. However, principles and tools don’t produce or sustain improvement. The key to sustainable results is your people and their everyday choices and behaviors, specifically how they apply business principles and tools to everyday business needs. These every day behaviors and choices define your business culture. It is critical to recognize this relationship between everyday choices or culture and your organizational results. Each employee will make hundreds of choices each day. They come to work and decide what they’ll do and how they’ll behave. They choose how they will react in every moment. The business relies on these choices and the sum of these choices ultimately equals operational results. Creating an environment where every individual within the business is empowered, enabled and aligned to make good decisions everyday is our objective as leaders.
If businesses win or lose by their people’s choices, how does an organization ensure or drive better choices? The typical approach is to limit decision-making to a trusted group. Businesses spend endless effort recruiting and retaining the “smartest” people. Organizations need these people because they are the decision makers, the ones entrusted with the business. Organizations create levels of bureaucracy and systems for approval to protect against bad decision-making.
These are typical management approaches; but, unfortunately, cannot drive the sum of all your employee’s decisions. Although these approaches attempt to control/limit risk, employees still must make choices relative to the ever-changing circumstance they encounter everyday. Control-based management methodologies are a thin veil of false comfort that gives management the illusion that they are making better decisions across the organization.
The primary purpose of a leader is not to control or dictate but rather to focus on how he or she can enable others to make great choices. Leaders do this by creating a circumstance where people are capable to see and solve problems relative to the things that matter most. Leaders create this circumstance through establishing these 3 foundational elements.
By focusing on these foundational elements, leaders create a circumstance where each employee can make good choices everyday. The collection of these good choices, over time, increases a business ability to drive sustainable results. Organizations reach full potential when employees make good choices every day.