One of me and thousands of them

From Ian Gotts’ “Common Approach, Uncommon Results”

So many initiatives, so little time.  I was recently at UPS working with them to make sure their many initiatives ‘stick’ within the company.  Their executive made of the most important statements I’ve heard in a very long time, “There is one of me, and there are hundreds of thousands of them.”

There was something very real in his semi-joking statement.  Leadership is greatly outnumbered.  The best ideas for the bottom and top line and most critical initiatives, like customer focus, quality, cost reduction, safety, environmental and others are launched and fail to find critical mass because the actual behaviors within the organization never change.  Sound familiar?

Making strategy stick

There are really two ways to make strategy into reality:

  • Organize to change the day-to-day behavior in key parts (or all) of the organization. You can only do this when you have a handle on the day-to-day behaviors.
  • Find a way to measure the change in a way that shows where change is taking place and where it isn’t. Then put resources into the game where they can affect the outcome.

Within the typical organizational ‘pyramid’, the sheer numbers of people who need to be aligned to a new idea or way of doing business means that companies launching initiatives without knowing what they do (and a healthy portion of automation) are fighting an uphill battle.  We can rely on charismatic leadership combined with luck to gain the upper hand…or we can make a real investment in how well we understand, communicate and measure how things are really being done. I recommend the second approach as it leads to consistent success.

Years have been spent automating the way data moves around an enterprise, and it is fair to say that we’re in a cycle of diminishing returns when it comes to pushing the envelope on transactional automation.   We now know exactly how many transactions are being done and where they take place, but many companies have yet to align the day-to-day work of the people in a way that allows initiatives to become reality.

If we put the same focus on knowing and measuring and improving the real activities of (less-predictable) people that we took with (highly predictable) transactions, a few can lead the many. This isn’t years out of reach…it is happening in some of the best companies.

Strategy is only real when it affects the behavior and mindset of the majority of the enterprise.

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Categories: Strategy

Author:Chris Taylor

Reimagining the way work is done through big data, analytics, and event processing. There's no end to what we can change and improve. I wear myself out...

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One Comment on “One of me and thousands of them”

  1. March 16, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    There is a book summary of the book referenced – Common Approach, Uncommon Results. http://iangotts.wordpress.com/writing/common-approach/

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