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I worked with a Cost Improvement Process Team (CIP) which was a Task Force Made up of a dozen non management people with a mandate to examine all areas of company's operation with an aim to cutting costs and improving operational effectiveness. As is typical of this type of team, none of members had ever worked before in a team environment where individual effort was largely unrecognized and success or failure was measured on results of group as a whole. The need for cooperation, individual input, volunteering for assignments, sharing of credit and backing up both other members and group as a whole, was paramount to success. The team met for 90 minutes each week and after six months of coaching had achieved a level of togetherness to make me proud and were well able to carry on on their own. The changes recommended in policy, procedures and methods that were accepted and implemented measured savings in hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Almost any sort of team environment is at odds with way most of us have been conditioned to think and to work. Normally we are only too well aware that our potential for promotion and even our job security is dependent solely on our own efforts and ability. The idea of subordinating our efforts and ability to overall needs of a group or a team is quite foreign -- even intimidating -- and it is only with a great deal of understanding and assurance that this can be effectively brought about.
Perhaps highest level of task force is a senior management team brought together for long term strategic planning. In this case "Management Team" is sometimes supplemented with representatives from key customers, suppliers, accountants and legal advisors. Often, people at this level are even more reluctant than others to forget about personal and departmental objectives in favor of best interests of organization as a whole but if recommendations to a board of directors are to have any value at all, this must be case. When Task Force is introduced to process and walked through procedure by a coach, objectivity becomes much more readily attainable.
Introspection - Getting Started
One of greatest obstacles to progress can often be our awareness of past failures. If we tried something a couple of years ago and fell flat on our faces (and especially if we were ridiculed or derided as a result) we tend to be reluctant to rock boat again. When we believe that history will repeat itself, we become paralyzed by fear.
Mentoring managers through a process that I sometimes refer to as "directed introspection" in order to expose attitudes and prejudices can often produce startling results. Knowing where we are starting from does not in and of itself guarantee that we will arrive at our desired destination (on time and within budget) but not knowing weights odds heavily against us. I believe that if we want to go somewhere we must first know who we are and where we are. When we know starting point, personally and professionally, in regard to ourselves, our people and our company we are more likely to have a clear picture of where we want to go, how to get there and what must change.
I believe that as many people as possible in an organization should be involved in process of creating statements of Vision, Mission, Purpose, Values, and Goals. When people have had a hand in creation, buy in to do what ever is necessary to get results is almost automatic. When these guiding principles are understood by everyone from "Ivory Tower" all way to Shop Floor everyone knows where we are going, why we are going there and what we have to do to get there. They also know down side of not going there and of not participating in process. Is not search for heaven made more intense by awareness of hell? In addition, when everyone understands his or her WIIFM, (What's In It For Me) getting results is like picking low hanging fruit.
Vision must be followed by a plan
Strategic planning can be an arduous (but exhilarating) process. Often a three day retreat with an outside facilitator is only way to get concentrated focus, brainstorming, necessary to initiate process. We must examine all aspects or organization, physical and human resources, management skills and needs, culture, attitudes, market place, industry, supplier relations, customer relations, government regulations, labour agreements, etc., etc. We have to remember that Rome was not built in a day. If we are looking for instant gratification we will surely be disappointed.
When we have suspended our doubts and fears, set aside our memories of past failure, forgotten our prejudices, examined our strengths and planned to enhance them, seen in our minds eye potential within ourselves and our organization, created a vision in which we believe, we will become advocates for our organization and evangelists for realization of that vision.
Once we are over initial hurdle we will be driven by power of our vision for future. A clearly articulated vision coupled to a specific plan of action for its attainment (including target dates for each step), and a firm commitment to that action, is an unstoppable combination. YES, it will require perseverance, dedication and hard work; and YES, it will be extremely satisfying!
Effecting organizational and personal change is never a cake walk but learning basics of how to set goals and create plans with specific, time sensitive action steps for their achievement can be learned in only a few hours. When coupled to powerful statements of Vision, Mission, Purpose, and Values, and a well-organized coaching, mentoring and measurement process, pain is minimal while results are huge!
Len McNally is President and founder of The Leadership Centre, dedicated to leadership development, management team building and change management through executive and corporate coaching - from the top floor to the shop floor. He can be reached at (519) 759-1127 or email: email@example.com. Other articles may be seen at: www.tlc-leadership.com