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.


.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.