Monday, October 24, 2011

The End Game – Going from vision to action

A number of business publications emphasize the need to “Start with the end in mind.” This catchy phrase admonishes us to stop long enough to think out where we are going, and how to effectively get there before we jump into the fray and work on whatever issue is challenging us. What is the needed vision, and how do we begin and engage in this vision with actions that will get us and our organization to a worthwhile conclusion?

A while back, I was in charge of a mission impossible assignment to turn around an organization that had a history of miserable performance. One of the challenges was a highly adversarial relationship with a very strong union whose members had been abused for years by autocratic management. The end game was a need to get performance from both management and union members who truly hated each other, yet truly needed each other to keep from going out of business.

Sink or swim, what would it be? The only viable decision was to swim together instead of continuing the classic definition of insanity; doing the same thing and expecting different results- pigs wrestling with pigs. In turn, this required a vision of both sides combining forces with the enemy (each other), in an effort for all to remain employed. At the same time, we needed to meet the needs of a customer that was ever more unsatisfied with our inability to meet said needs, as we had focused on battling each other instead of fulfilling customer desires.

This end game vision required the leader-manager (me), to begin to humble myself and serve the needs of the hourly employees, salaried employees and customers all at the same time. After some significant time of personal reflection and thought, off I went to meet with the union leadership. At last, we began an extended period of slowly healing the perceived and real wounds inflicted on both sides. We mutually developed the credibility that allowed us to change our workplace culture so that we could work together effectively.

Many of us struggle with both what the vision is, and a plan for the actions necessary for its achievement. The Continuous Improvement approach to achieve organizational excellence would counsel us to back off from the fray, come away for a time of reflection, and follow the simple approach of “Plan, Do, Check, Act.” Are you currently struggling with a personal or work situation that would benefit from this approach of going from vision to action?

The Doc

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