Now, most organizations, of any mass, are by some degree successful. I default to the Stephen King definition of success (in literature): If you write something, and someone sends you a check for it, and the check doesn’t bounce, and you’re able to pay your electric bill with that money, you’re a successful writer; however, I am assuming that those reading this are looking for a stepping stone to the next level.
The perfect metaphor for developing the foundation of world-class organization (success) is the three legged stool. No relationship correctly highlights the equal importance of each of the components as this model. Going a step further, a one or two legged stool are both equally useless and the four legged stool provides no more utility than its three legged counterpart.
The 3 Legs:
Culture: Mr. Druckers Quote: "Culture eats strategy for breakfast" might as well be considered a commandment in the management bible. The best laid plans or process improvements have been ransacked by work teams gone awry. Conversely, a strong team can make a mediocre project work in the short term to be transformed into an exceptional idea, in the long term, by collaborative thinking.
Two benefits of a Positive Culture
- Improved number of employee suggestions- Observe a new engineer's first month on the job. They will establish a lay of the land and then begin hunting for ideas. It is more productive to have a pool of ideas and choose the best ones of the pack. My current assignment averages 1.5-2 suggestions per employee per month. I am not satisfied with that number, but not disappointed by it either.
- Change management is less apt to be a problem. It is very easy for a team of associates to make and idea not work if they don't appreciate its merit. No one knows all of the reasons for change resistance; lets just assume it is a little bit of fear coupled with a little bit of anger. A positive culture will enable most of the associates to embrace the change and other associates will be influenced by their peers.
Kaizen (process improvements/innovation): Obviously, from my team's namesake, I am partial to the Toyota production system and kaizen methodology. However, there are times when this is not the answer to your problems. Companies tend to look for a magic bullet that will cure all of their improvement/problem woes. Quite conversely, every improvement system needs to be tailored to the company and its respective operations. An example of this adaption is the recent manifestation of the Honeywell Operating System (HOS). For almost 2 decades companies have been trying to emulate Toyota or GE and, finally, Honeywell took the principals and developed a methodology to custom fit their culture.
That being said, The reason that I gravitate towards kaizen as a key to improvement is because kaizen and culture go hand in hand. If done correctly, adding kaizen to your team is like feeding a cultural fire with gasoline! There is nothing that can compare to a team of associates diving deep to fix a problem in their personal workspace. It is empowering, gratifying and uniting simultaneously.
Leadership: The last leg of stool is leadership. It is very easy to say that leadership is an important part of every site, plan or organization. Think back to your last job interview; how many leadership questions were you asked? The fact remains that even when hiring top management, most people are put into position because of technical competence, not leadership ability. Which of the two is more important when trying to take an organization from average to world-class? Strong Leadership solidifies your gains and stabilizes your team during times of crisis.
The 3 legged stool is the foundation and support for the strategic direction & operations of the organization. This model can be applied on a global basis or as deep in an organization as site level. Strong organizations, at any of these levels) have strong cultures, strong process improvements and strong leaders.