Reviewing results and improving the processes that led to them are hallmarks of “continuous improvement” in many organizations. TQM, Six Sigma, ISO, even job costing and budget variance reports – these are all designed to take a look at what you did, the results you produced, and then take action to do it even better next time.
In his 1990 book, The Fifth Discipline, Peter Senge rightly pointed out that the company that learns the fastest wins. But few organizations are digging deep and challenging why they do what they do. Dissecting your company’s purpose, values, and goals – the very reason for its existence – is what today’s disruptive economy requires to avoid becoming the Blockbuster or Kodak of your industry.
This is the most difficult, most high-value thinking in an organization – the kind of thinking many leaders have trouble with. As a result, they spend their attention on what the company’s doing and how it is doing it – the more comfortable, management-level thinking – but not enough on why they are doing it at all. Setting this vision, however, is the one duty that the leader simply can’t delegate. It is theirs and theirs alone to wrestle with.
How much of your attention is spent challenging the assumptions in which your company operates?
Start by asking these two questions:
If I called all of your customers and asked them what your company could learn and develop such that these customers would stop even thinking about doing business with anyone else, what would they say?
Whatever your answer is, this is what you should be working on as a leader. There is value in actually asking your clients, but in your gut, whatever you think they’d really want is what you should be giving them. Dig deep.
That question was for your company. The question for you personally is:
If I did a 360 degree review and interviewed everyone in your organization, what would they say is the one thing you should learn or develop that would most positively impact the organization?
Now go work on that as your number one priority for personal development.
As a leader of the company, if you can challenge the underlying assumptions that led you to where you are, you will be engaging in the “why” thinking that challenges your foundations. Optimizing processes is helpful. Optimizing the whole is what separates the good from the great.