The best companies produce remarkable products and provide great services. These companies inspire their employees to overcome chaos and deliver value to their customers, partners and to each other. They enable collaboration for their stakeholders so they may be remarkable at what they do. These best companies then recognize and reward people for delivering these valuable products. Further, the best of the best mentor their people to be like themselves so that more become remarkable and then celebrated by the company. And when mistakes happen, they are studied so the mistake doesn’t happen again, while making the people involved feel that this mistake actually helped the company grow and become stronger.
These companies understand that the structure they have created isn’t enough and that no matter how many good habits they train into their culture, there will always be things that cannot be controlled. These companies know that their people are their primary resource and that they will either succeed or fail on the products and services these people provide. They know that no matter what tools are available or what processes they try to enforce, it is still their people who will ultimately make the deliveries of a remarkable business, or not. These companies have in fact built a culture and will stand to it while welcoming their members to freely collaborate, cooperate and learn while they build or deliver their remarkable products and services. The best companies expect to be remarkable and even insist on it. But they also know and trust that their people will deliver the best if encouraged and supported to do so.
A client asked me a few years ago if all of the moving pieces of providing products and services were necessary. He asked, “At the end of the day, what do all of these strategies, schedules, budgets, procedures and activities give me.” My answer summed it up as the difference of providing reliable professional products and services or not. Businesses do not deliver remarkable products and services by starting over fresh with every product or service. They do not deliver a remarkable product without a vision, plan, measurable process or procedure. The organization must provide the foundation of their activities so that their people can collaborate and cooperate effectively. Nothing less will survive the rising demands of our customers. And, our customers deserve our best services and products every time.
A Business that understands that they can’t control everything understands that they must encourage their people to take charge when their skills or authority enables them to do so. They train their people to support the strategy and use the tools provided, but assures them that the goal is to be remarkable so stretching the system is desirable to exceed the expectations of their customers, partners and each other. They train their people in the knowledge that what they don’t control, they should instead influence the outcome by effectively contributing and supporting the team. They encourage openness and diversity so new perspectives may be routinely introduced. Practice is allowed as any skill improves with practice and it is understood that when you first learn a new skill you may stumble and fall. But that’s OK – it’s part of the process (Just keep practicing).
The foundation of our businesses is that we must provide a well-communicated strategy and vision supported by activities that enable planning, prioritization, and the alignment of production, operations and sustainment into the management and business processes. This results in the production of our desired business outcomes from an enthusiastic and engaged workforce. Our Business Culture should strive to create an environment where practices and management processes successfully produce the desired results using engaging, but simple processes supported by knowledge, experience and leadership.
A business’s limitation to successfully deliver remarkable products originates from the company’s own culture and capabilities for performing. The business can surpass its own cultural limitations and capabilities by enabling their staff to stretch the business when needed to achieve the desired results. This is an extreme introduction to our business culture where our people are encouraged to always provide or add value, change and innovation. This is a clear indicator of whether the company can actually break through past culture barriers and company capability that may have been previously limited by our business culture or even our own management.
Assessing the management and the business results can lead to improvements of activities needed to achieve organizational goals, exceed expectations and deliver remarkable products and services. This is based on the fact that effective and mature management processes will produce better results: better software, better projects, better financial decisions, etc. Beginning in the 1980s, ideas of growth and organizational change began to be documented in SEI’s Capability Maturity Model. This documentation focused on the processes and management practices an organization applied to software development. Goals and processes were compared with results to establish baselines in which a company could reliably expect timely improvement, growth and profitable results to its own activities. This approach to finding and achieving improvements has proved reliable across many industries and disciplines. There should be no doubt that reliability, repeatability, and improving towards more valuable activity grows our business.
Our businesses are better when we use more effective and better-connected business processes as “More effective processes” produce better results. This does not mean adding unnecessary steps or bureaucracies to the process. Instead, focusing on:
1) fully integrating business processes,
2) enabling innovation that impacts business planning,
3) offering new strategies,
4) prioritizing and aligning to business strategy,
5) tracking performance and
6) executing to these expectations improves service performance and product quality while maximizing the efficiencies of the business.
A goal for our businesses should be to overcome our own cultural barriers and improve on our company’s ability to provide remarkable products. Our business culture shouldn’t be a determinant of success in adopting practices like value, prioritization, alignment, repeatability, innovation and so forth. These practices enable our businesses to make the best decisions and take the best actions. Achieving this goal requires the active, and accepting, participation of both business and its many stakeholders.
It isn’t always straightforward though for our business cultures to understand value, change, or other results of the processes, and the desired outcomes they are intended to produce. It isn’t unusual for innovation and prioritization practices, even at high levels, for the recommendations or improvements NOT to appear in any of the senior managers’ annual plans for the coming year. The business culture may not support the manner in which the practice results were produced nor support the ideas of an innovation in the business. Connecting the dots for lasting results and what may become missed opportunities requires knowledge, experience and leadership at all levels of the business. This results in improving the strategic planning process so that ideas may be promptly acted upon or connected to the annual planning and budgeting process.
We are dealing with the larger issues: how does one fundamentally change how the company manages its resources or new ideas? How does someone deep within an organization fundamentally affect the behavior of the company itself? The answers lie as much in listening for these things as well as in setting goals, adopting new practices, and influencing the culture of the company. As many are finding out in today’s business climate, connecting the dots isn’t something that only the leaders within the company are responsible for, but also must include ways where stakeholders, both inside and outside the ranks of the company are allowed to participate in the long-term goals (where do we want to be) and the strategic roadmap to getting there.