How to work together to create a more connected, systemic organisation

Des Kelly gives more tips for how leaders can stay connected to the business – at all levels.

Jack Welch, one-time chairman and CEO of General Electric, has been quoted as saying “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision, and relentlessly drive it to completion”.

Some may agree and others not but, for me, great business leaders set a vision and drive to deliver it. They can’t, however, do this alone. They need the full and unwavering support from every individual within the organisation.

To optimise and capture that unwavering support every individual must naturally feel that what they do and how they go about their daily tasks are completely aligned and support the delivery of the businesses objectives.

To do that the leaders of the business must define the businesses purpose, why it exists (beyond making profit) and design and deploy the business system that will deliver that purpose. This is a task that cannot be delegated, the leaders must own their business system and continually check that it is satisfying its purpose. So how can this be done?

There are few more knowledgeable about how the work gets done and how it can be improved than those who do the work each day.

W.E Deming, created the System of Profound Knowledge, a philosophy that has four ‘lenses’ through which leaders can better understand the world around them to create and deploy a business system in response, one that is data driven. Those lenses are; appreciating a system, understanding variation, the psychology of change and the theory of knowledge.

Deming was clear that great leaders need to understand the psychology of their organisations, they should be empathetic and understand that the bond between employee and leader is one of the most vital factors for a successful, evolving business.

Leaders of successful organisations express the purpose and objectives of the system and then involve the employees in defining and deploying the way the work should be done. There are few more knowledgeable about how the work gets done and how it can be improved than those who do the work each day.

Leaders who can set the direction and then trust the employees to define the ‘best way’ create a bond of allegiance that can never be created in a command & control environment. The bond of allegiance strikes deep into the psyche of the worker and turns good employees into great ones and great employees make an impressive business.

This does not mean that leadership can sit back and let the individuals and teams get on and do as they please.

The role of a business leader falls into three primary categories:

  1. Understand the world in which they are operating
    • Define who your customers are and what it is they need & want
    • Define the business system that will deliver this
  2. Monitor how well the business system is doing in delivering on its objectives
    • If things need to improve, sponsor projects to bring around that improvement
  3. Make sure that there is a clear process to manage the day to day work
    • Ensure there is a way of monitoring those day to day activities so that they achieve the optimal balance between effectiveness, efficiency and adaptability

It is critical that organisations have a clear and unambiguous way to describe and deploy the business as a system, to be able to define the key activities required to ensure the system delivers what is needed. The business needs a mechanism to describe the Who, What, When, Where, Why and the How of the work, which is then defined by the leaders and described by the employees.

In doing this, employees take ownership of the task and can see how what they do directly influences the success of the business. The businesses aim becomes theirs.

Leaders don’t sit in their offices while this is happening, instead, they need to be visible and seen to engage in the development of the deployed system by removing barriers to effective and efficient work. This collective effort builds an emotional bond as everyone from the most senior leader to the most junior employee share the task of defining the way the work should work.

Employees who are involved in the creation of the deployed system can also identify what skills and competencies are needed to deliver that task. They can see and work out for themselves where they may need to develop and in so doing become intrinsically motivated to develop these skills and competencies.

For some senior managers, the task of creating process is a dull and tedious duty best left to those that enjoy finicky tasks, whilst they get on with the big stuff.

The leader with wisdom knows that to build a successful dynamic business they need to create the bond between bosses & employees, they understand that there must be shared values, consensus on the best way to work together to deliver the business objectives and for that, the system of work has to be jointly created.


About the author

Des Kelly is director consultant at PMI (Process Management International)


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