Taking Ourselves & Our Companies to the Next Level

There is a lot of fear and anxiety in the world right now.  There is distrust, uneasiness, lots of disruptions and problems, friends and associates we’ve come to know well are no longer working with us, parking lots and cubicles are looking a bit empty, the pace for the people who remain working is more and more frenetic, not everything that needs to get done is getting done which adds to stress, and many are concerned for their financial future.  You understand this—you’re living it.


Consider this:



Ask yourself what it is you are creating for yourself in this moment?  Are you working on something exciting or simply showing up and going through the motions?


What is your company creating for itself in this moment?  What excitement is the company creating for its employees, customers and shareholders?  What is shifting the momentum?


One of my mentors recently offered that it is virtually impossible to create or innovate from feelings of disruption or despair.  She offered it is only possible to create from a feeling of excitement—excitement being that "big bang of energy" that gives us the impetus to move forward in accelerated creation of something better than where we are today.


How much excitement is there in the world today? For many, not much--just as we reviewed at the top of this article. 

Excitement has shifted to thoughts of survival which has led to disruptive thoughts about life and business.


My mentor went on to explain that as people speak about and give attention to the disruptions in their lives, their personal power becomes diminished leading to a less and less empowered life.  People, departments and companies focused on disruptions need to be aware of the impact their attention on the disruptions is having on them personally, on their department, and their company—it is reducing empowerment.


Which of the following conditions is more empowering?


  • Merely talking about the difficulties associated with work, or,

  • Bringing teams together so they can decide what shifts need to happen in the organization to create exciting possibilities together?



In my last newsletter, one of the lines that caught a lot of attention stated that when the economy returns to “business as usual,” it’s not going to be “business as usual.” It is unrealistic to think that in a month, a quarter, a year or 2 years that everything is going to return to the state it was before the economy hit this rather dramatic speed bump.  Shifts are going to need to occur.


If the focus is on innovating to create excitement together rather than “fixing what is wrong with the system,” the results can be far more powerful and rewarding particularly when teams are brought together to discuss what can be done to create excitement through process innovation.


When my mentor pointed this out that excitement is a key ingredient to success, I began a mental scan of past business successes and failures that I had observed.  Out of this came some thoughts:


My clients biggest business wins have had varying degrees of excitement.  Excitement was created via impressive cycle time reductions in core processes; excitement was created by innovating to provide critical insights and knowledge about how to configure complex products and excitement was provided via critical infrastructure (part numbering, change control, etc.) that sustained a business successfully for years so the business could focus on “running the business” rather than on problems with the underlying infrastructure. 


Some changes were met with great skepticism that grew into great excitement; some changes quietly supported the business in a vastly improved way.  All had some level of excitement and are things I look back on fondly.  Often, it was the project that “nobody thought could be pulled off” that drew the biggest excitement.


One large IT program that I was involved with had the life force drawn out of it as problems mounted and, as a result, there wasn’t the faintest glimmer of stakeholder excitement.  Despite the best attempts to put lipstick on the program in the status reports to senior management, it was still a pig.  The level of excitement when the project was put on ice:  just about zero.

Change management and organizational adoption of business process innovations are far easier and more exciting when stakeholders see tangible benefits in the change and have been part of the change. 

Conversely, when stakeholders needs are ignored and/or they aren’t included in the process (its being done “to” them, nor “for” them), change management and organizational adoption become an uphill battle that is extremely difficult (if not impossible) to win.

Kaizen events are a great way to get quick wins and realize tangible benefits in core business processes.  Key stakeholders and process outsiders are engaged in looking for solutions and implementing recommendations.  As there is limited time to come up with and implement fixes, many solutions are implemented outside of the information technology realm yielding process improvement benefits sooner. Incremental improvements often yield sufficient benefits to sustain an organization for quite a period of time.

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Dave Hitz, a Founder and Senior Vice President of NetApp, Inc., and co-author of “How to Castrate a Bull: Unexpected Lessons on Risk, Growth and Success in Business.”  Dave should know.  His company has grown from $0 in 1992 to over $3.5 billion today.

He mentioned that the entrepreneur’s guiding principle is “good enough considering” meaning you don’t always have to have a perfect solution; something less than perfect can work well.   While I believe he primarily addressed this in the context of deciding what features and options are needed to make a product viable, he also discussed this in the context of business process and information technology evolution.  In more situations than we might imagine, something can be made to be “good enough considering.” Kaizen events can provide a pathway to get there.

What would happen if teams came to a place of accelerated creation and innovation with the mindset of:

We would prefer to see each person supporting and enlightening each other.

We would prefer that everyone here has a feeling of personal empowerment.

We would prefer support systems that incorporate new possibilities into the current reality.

We would prefer to create an enormously powerful experience for ourselves and the people we collaborate with.


These objectives are compelling--teams could get excited about these objectives.


Where there is a vacuum of excitement in a change initiative, senior management needs to pay attention to make sure a project isn’t headed off a cliff.


I welcome the opportunity to help you create sustainable, business execution improvements. I welcome your call to discuss how we might work together. I help teams accelerate their ability to collaborate creating new opportunities that improve business execution. 








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