Have you ever worked for an organization where you doubted the leadership capability of your CEO, managing director, division president or head of your agency? Have you ever been disturbed that your organization is not living up to its full potential, in terms of its enterprise-wide performance management? Imagine that I am a journalist. How would you enjoy working for an organization whose leader answered my interview questions as follows?
Gary Cokins: How does your organization view quality and waste?
The CEO: The quality community often provides lists of the five or so quality problems, such as nonconformance to product design specifications or insufficient focus on customer service. These lists tend to omit a much more critical deficiency: the inability to enable employees to achieve their full potential to contribute toward the organizations strategic goals. This is a huge waste but also an opportunity. My position is that our managers main function is to unleash the power and intellect of our employees.
GC: How have you created a work environment that makes this possible?
CEO: I set the tone at the top, as a role model, by placing a high priority on three character traits: trust, a high tolerance for dissent and innovation. Their combination is potent in a positive way. Without trust, employees do not feel they are adequately involved in decision making. Without allowing a time period for dissent, employees will not feel there is an opportunity for their opinions to be considered. Without innovation, others will leave us behind.
GC: This sounds like you are a big advocate of employee empowerment, but cant it lead to chaos from employee teams exhibiting departmental self-interests rather than a unified interest in your organization as a whole?
CEO: Conflict and tension is natural in all organizations. There are always trade-offs, and as a leader, I struggle to properly balance multiple dimensions such as how to improve customer service levels and cost-saving process efficiencies while restricted to financial budget constraints and profit targets. I constantly assess our risk management with our risk appetite. My belief is that the primary role of my executive team is to set direction, and secondarily to hire, grow and retain excellent employees. Empowered and involved, then our employees are tasked to determine how we best follow our strategic direction. An autocratic command-and-control style of management no longer works. My managers and employee teams decide which initiatives are required and which processes we must excel at. I then assure protected financial funding of their projects and process improvements regardless of a temporary dip in our short-term financial results. We must put our money where our strategy is.
GC: You sidestepped my question. How do you unify your organization?
CEO: Its basic. My executive team communicates our strategy with a strategy map, then our workforce constructs and continuously modifies our balanced scorecard of initiatives, key processes and associated performance measures derived from our strategy map. This aligns our employees priorities, plans and actions with our strategy. With the cascading cause-and-effect linkage of strategic objectives from our strategy map, the tension and conflict I mentioned becomes self-balancing. Our measurements are critical. You get what you measure.
GC: How do you motivate employees?