Articles

Leading Edge Organizations

In both public and private sector organizations there is always a desire to have the reputation as the go-to leading edge organization, the one customers and competitors look to as the benchmark, the one to be compared against.  To get there is an achievable journey, and well worth the effort.  Being leading edge requires innovation, cutting edge techniques – like Lean – insight, exceptional talent, and the ability to provide solutions for people.

The first part to look at is the workforce.  Research shows that the top ten in-demand jobs in 2010 didn’t exist in 2004; we are preparing potential employees for jobs that don’t even exist yet, using technologies that haven’t been invented to solve problems we don’t even know are problems yet.  That’s how fast the working world is changing, and your ability to adapt is essential.  These are opportunities for you to find the best people to drive a leading edge philosophy.

Potential employees have changed as well.  Today’s students leaving school to enter the workforce will average 10 – 14 different jobs by age 38, and 1 in 2 employees has been with their current employer less than 5 years.  So how do you get and keep good people, because it is about the people?  Without them nothing happens, so leading edge organizations hire leading edge people.  Give them a compelling vision, mission, and a strategy – one that wins; give them an organization that capitalizes on their intellectual capital, and always remember that it’s free for the asking.  It’s also irreplaceable. People want to be part of something special.  They make things happen, not machines or technology; make them matter.

Find ways to eliminate those who aren’t committed; get and keep A+ people.  To get then you need to be an A+ organization. Ask candidates for employment if they’re good enough to work with you.  Never tolerate mediocrity; if you think that way, that’s what you’ll get.

The second part is to look at your mission, vision, and values.  Here’s what you stand for, what sets you apart.  Have very high standards and never compromise them. Your mission is who you are, what you do, and why you do it.  Most employees in public and private sectors have no idea what their mission, vision, or values are.  Assure they do; assure its posted in places where it’s seen frequently so everyone knows.  Do the same with your vision statement – your desired outcome.  If no one knows where the organization is going or why they’re there, you lose.  The values guide behavior and performance – tie these together.  Make sure that everything you do gets you to the mission; if it doesn’t get it off the table.

Whatever the job, always look for better ways to get it done.  Emphasize continuous improvement.  Stop dragging the past into the future; look forward. Stand out – do something beyond what’s normal.

The third step is to ask hard questions and answer them truthfully. Ask yourself these simple, but profound questions:

  • If I want to be the best how do I get there?
  • Where is my organization currently at?  What is our present status and position?
  • Are you producing the results you want right now?  If not, doing what you’re already doing isn’t going to help you in the future.
  • And, am I prepared to make the adjustments to become a leading edge organization?

Successful organizations see things differently.  A proven and successful way to a leading edge organization is the application of Lean or Lean Six Sigma.  Either of these asks of everything, “How can I do this better?”  “How do I get to real problems and generate real solutions?”  Use a problem solving philosophy that places an emphasis on what is right, not who is right.

Teach your employees that when a problem is seen, it is symptomatic of a deeper problem. Teach them the use of Lean tools to do real problem identification.  Problems in an organization always go directly to the bottom line, and waste valuable time and resources. The only way to get and keep good people is to provide them a great workplace.

Add all these together and you fashion a leading edge organization.  There are more, of course, but these get you well on your way.  You must be the competitive differentiator, and be willing to be able to adjust to a volatile, ever changing world.

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.Bill Cooper is a retired Chief of Police and Senior Manager who worked in two Fortune 200 corporations.  He is the author of the book Leading Beyond Tradition: Exceeding Expectations in Any Economy.  The book is based on his highly successful Cooper Management Model.  He is a management expert who holds an MBA and Masters in Public Administration.  He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Six Sigma Black Belt.  He speaks, trains, and consults on high performance organizations, leadership, and organizational development.

Getting Employees More Engaged in High Performance

An age-old management concern that has resulted in labor-management conflict and lower levels of performance continues to vex many organizations.  It has been called a union problem, a generational issue (X Generation, Y Generation), everything but what it is – a leadership gap.  How do leaders get their employees more engaged in building and being part of something special?  How do employees improve performance to standards of excellence on a continual basis?  How does the bottom line get better, whether private or public sector, service or product industries?

As a retired Police Chief and Senior Manager in two Fortune 200 corporations, I saw and experienced first-hand many of those concerns.  I asked myself the obvious question – why was this happening and why didn’t it get any better?  Having dealt with the variety of problems organizations face, I learned that we really don’t answer the difficult questions many times.  We have become very proficient at attacking symptoms of problems rather than identifying real causes.

 Any organization operates based on its culture and its values – not what is typically printed, but what actually occurs.  When there are problems there is usually an undercurrent of distrust and a lack of communication.  Values diminish, as does performance and attitude.

 So what do we do?  Getting to a high performing organization is actually pretty simple.  I learned by doing and the advice here works – every time.  Employees want to be part of something special and they were hired for a reason.  They weren’t brought into an organization because they were substandard or poor performers.  They were brought in because they went through a vetting process to determine if they were the right fit.  Once in, employees want to know what is expected of them – specifically, and that they will be provided the tools and training to get the job done.  They also want to know what the boundaries are – what is and is not acceptable (policy, procedure).

There are two statements that leaders should never tolerate in any organization:

  1. That which is allowed becomes the standard.
  2. The minimum expected becomes the maximum achieved.

 Mediocrity should never be tolerated in any form and employees should understand they came to your organization being expected to achieve a certain set of tasks for a certain pay rate.  They should understand that when they pick up that paycheck every two weeks, they need to have earned it, no questions asked.

 Create a climate of performance excellence by doing these 5 things:

 Only hire A+ people.  Candidates who require someone else to motivate them should never get past the initial interview.  The minute you need to start closely managing an employee, you made a hiring mistake.

  1. Leaders must create a compelling vision and mission statement and everyone in the organization should see it and know it every day.  All staff and resources need to be deployed to achieving it.
  2. Leaders must continually and consistently model the behaviors they expect from everyone else – walk the walk.
  3. The organizational performance must be based on the philosophy of continuous improvement – everyone always looking for ways to improve.  Understand that the people in the best position to identify and solve problems are the people most closely positioned to them.  Listen to these people.
  4. Equally important – if you want your people to buy into what you’re doing – let them help you build it.  They will – just ask them and watch the pride and ownership.

Everyone in the organization must commit – no one is sitting on the bench.  All is requires is leadership.  I’ve applied these principle across multiple private and public sector organizations, across diverse cultures, backgrounds, educational background, experience, unions, and attitudes, and I’ve won every time.  It’s about taking care of the best asset you have – your people.  Get the right people in, the wrong people out, and the right people in the right places.  Combine that with your vision and watch what happens.

Bill Cooper is a retired Chief of Police and Senior Manager who worked in two Fortune 200 corporations.  He is the author of the book Leading Beyond Tradition: Exceeding Expectations in Any Economy.  The book is based on his highly successful Cooper Management Model.  He is a management expert who holds an MBA and Masters in Public Administration.  He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Six Sigma Black Belt.  He speaks, trains, and consults on high performance organizations, leadership, and organizational development.

Aligning Business Strategy and Operational Excellence: Achieve Better Results Now

Are you satisfied with your results? Are your key outputs what they should be? If not, do you know where the disconnects are? Many times, businesses put thousands into learning the tools and techniques of Lean, Six Sigma or Operational Excellence only to find that the results they achieve are lackluster at best. Even the greatest tools are only so good as the framework in which they must be used. To get the most out of Lean or Six Sigma methodologies, you need a solid strategy that supports your continuous improvement efforts.

 Strategy is what takes your organization from what it is to what you’d like it to be. Organizations plan and develop strategies every year with the best of intentions, but fail the critical tests:

  1. Do your employees and managers know what your strategy is?
  2. Do they know what your mission is?
  3. Do they know what the organizational goals and objectives are?

 If your people cannot answer these questions, strategy cannot be executed successfully. For your plan to succeed, it must be widely known and understood, and performance expectations must be established and communicated across the company. The mission, vision, and strategy then become the basis for operational excellence.

 Operational excellence must be mandated from the top down and must touch every part of the organization. It forms the foundation for creating the continuous improvement culture we want, where growth and progress are the norm. There needs to be a cause-and-effect relationship among the various departments, where what one department does affects the others, all in a positive way, all aligned with the strategy, all founded on performance aimed toward seeking excellence.

 The value of setting and executing an operational excellence approach includes a variety of benefits to your organization. 

  • Lower costs;
  • Faster time to completion;
  • Process simplification;
  • Prioritizing staff and resources;
  • Elimination of the belief that only more money can solve problems;
  • Clarity in performance expectations; and
  • Fact-based decision making, allowing faster and more accurate decisions.

 Achieving true operational excellence requires a specific blend of certain key ingredients:

 A good business intelligence system – one that allows you to gain insight through fact-based analysis; a system that allows good decisions to be made.

  1. Employee involvement – if you want your people to buy into your strategy, let them help you build it. The people who are most closely positioned to issues in any organization are those who are best positioned to provide solutions. You hired these folks for a reason; all you need to do is ask for their input.
  2. Using Lean or Lean Six Sigma methodologies and tools. These lead to performance excellence, and with better performance innately comes lower cost, higher quality, and faster time to completion.
  3. Establish your Value Proposition – the benefits minus the costs. When applying this formula, you are positioned to not only identify your competitive differentiation, but demonstrate that value to your people and customers alike.

 With this, you are now positioned to develop and execute a strategy based on operational excellence. This strategy needs to provide clear, unambiguous direction on where the organization is going and how it gets there. You will be able to deploy your finite resources in a targeted, focused fashion to achieve your desired end state.

 In today’s economic conditions, and with little expectation of significant improvement, organizations who do not engage in developing a strategy for a) implementing operational excellence, and b) executing on that strategy will find themselves out of the competition. On the other hand, companies that optimize their existing resources, fitting them into a well-developed strategic plan, will find themselves inextricably tied to success by lowering cost and time commitments, improving value, and creating a level of integrity and trust with their customers, all of which will produce results that are tied directly to your bottom line.

 

Bill Cooper is a retired Chief of Police and Senior Manager who worked in two Fortune 200 corporations.  He is the author of the book Leading Beyond Tradition: Exceeding Expectations in Any Economy.  The book is based on his highly successful Cooper Management Model.  He is a management expert who holds an MBA and Masters in Public Administration.  He is a certified Lean Six Sigma Black Belt and Six Sigma Black Belt.  He speaks, trains, and consults on high performance organizations, leadership, and organizational development.