An excerpt from The Handbook for Quality Management (2013, McGraw-Hill) by Paul Keller and Thomas Pyzdek
Continued from: Strategic Planning
The answer to these questions leads an organization to develop value and
mission statements to explain the organization’s broad (or sometimes quite specific) goals. The successful organization will outlive
the people who are currently its members. Thus, the mission of the successful organization must provide vision for the long term,
describing why the organization exists. No organization exists merely to “make a profit.” Profits accrue to organizations that
produce value in excess of their costs; that is, profits are an effect of productive existence, not a cause. Consider these examples:
One might go a step further and ask why the organization was created to fulfill its mission. The answer, at least in the beginning, might lie in the values of the organization’s founder. Henry Ford, for whatever reason, felt that it was important (i.e., valued) to provide the farmer with affordable and reliable motorized transportation. Furthermore, to elicit the cooperation of the members of the organization, organization must be compatible with the values of its members.
Organizational leaders are responsible for defining the organization’s vision. Defining the vision requires developing a mental image of the organization at a future time. The future organization will more closely approximate the ideal organization, where “ideal” is defined as that organization which completely achieves the organization’s values. How will such an organization “look”? What will its employees do? Who will be its customers? How will it behave toward its customers, employees, and suppliers? Developing a lucid image of this organization will help the leader see how she should proceed with her primary duty of transforming the present organization. Without such an image in her mind, the executive will lead the organization through a maze with a thousand dead ends. Conversely, with her vision to guide her, the transformation process will proceed on course. This is not to say that the transformation is ever “easy.” But when there is a leader with a vision, it’s as if the organization is following an expert scout through hostile territory. The path is clear, but the journey is still difficult.
When an individual has a vision of where he wants to go himself, he can pursue this vision directly. However, when dealing with an organization, simply having a clear vision is not enough. The leader must communicate the vision to the other members of the organization. Communicating a vision is a much different task than communicating instructions or concrete ideas.
Organizational visions that embody abstract values are necessarily abstract in nature. To effectively convey the vision to others, the leader must convert the abstractions to concretes. One way to do this is by living the vision. The leader demonstrates her values in every action she takes, every decision she makes, which meetings she attends or ignores, when she pays rapt attention and when she doodles absentmindedly on her notepad. Employees who are trying to understand the leader’s vision will pay close attention to the behavior of the leader.
Another way to communicate abstract ideas is to tell stories. In organizations there is a constant flow of events. Customers encounter the organization through employees and systems, suppliers meet with engineers, literally thousands of events take place every day. From time to time an event occurs that captures the essence of the leader’s vision. A clerk provides exceptional customer service, an engineer takes a risk and makes a mistake, a supplier keeps the line running through a mighty effort. These are concrete examples of what the leader wants the future organization to become. She should repeat these stories to others and publicly recognize the people who made the stories. She should also create stories of her own, even if it requires staging an event. There is nothing dishonest about creating a situation with powerful symbolic meaning and using it to communicate a vision. For example, Nordstrom has a story about a sales clerk who accepted a customer return of a defective tire. This story has tremendous symbolic meaning because Nordstrom doesn’t sell tires! The story illustrates Nordstrom’s policy of allowing employees to use their own best judgment in all situations, even if they make “mistakes,” and of going the extra mile to satisfy customers. However, it is doubtful that the event ever occurred. This is irrelevant. When employees hear this story during their orientation training, the message is clear. The story serves its purpose of clearly communicating an otherwise confusing abstraction.
Continued at: Strategy Development
Learn more about the Quality Management tools for process excellence in The Handbook for Quality Management (2013, McGraw-Hill) by Paul Keller and Thomas Pyzdek or their online Quality Management Study Guide.