I’m also of the mindset that a company’s culture can trump strategy on its own any time. To that end, during most of my corporate executive life I intuitively led with purpose (Company Mission), but until I met Simon Sinek I didn’t realize the neuroscience behind a powerful WHY.
Where’s Your WHY?
A few years back I walked into a new client to affect change. More specifically, to enable Workforce Agility, improve engagement and improve leadership in general by giving them practical & immediately applicable tools. I walked into their offices & looked for a WHY, a Mission statement that I could leverage and anchor my message, tools & approach to. Sadly I couldn’t find it. I found plenty of WHAT, but not WHY. Fortunately I came in at the right time, as they were in the process of addressing this need. We coupled my work to that already being done by their HR & Marketing Communications team to finalize a powerful WHY that more easily engaged their workforce to a higher purpose. Their WHY became “preference of our customers”.
Using Your WHY for Better Decision Making
For context, allow me to digress for one paragraph. My LinkedIn profile categorizes me as a Management Consultant, but to this day, for lack of a better definition, I still cringe at the verbalization of the word consultant. This discomfort is from the personal experience of being subjected to far too many consultants, in my corporate life, that didn’t add any significant practical value, or worse, those that many have witnessed come into an organization and call their own making ideas that were extracted from their clients staff interviews (standard discovery process). For example, I always credit that what I bring to the table is a set of neutral & unbiased ears, the capability to hear the wisdom & expertise that already exists in an organization. To this, I add structure & voice to that knowledge & experience. I add 30 years of proven experience, what I’ve seen work & fail, best practices, and how all this is relevant to their unique company culture & present day situation.
Back on-topic. On this particular day, a few weeks & workshops deep into this organizations’ chain of command, I came across a dilemma responsible for successive previous failures in execution. A team pushed back & said “how can we focus on 3-5 priorities when we have +700 budgeted projects and more than enough business-as-usual (routine daily activity) that more than takes up +8h of our day?” Apart from highly practical tips & tricks I gave them on time management & productivity secrets, I led them to their newly written Company Mission (WHY Statement) and showed them how to use it as a decision making tool. In that statement, after extracting the WHY itself, we identified 6 attributes (what makes a WHY unique to 1 particular organization) that we would use as decision making filters.
768 Projects down to 18
In addition to their daily routine, they identified 768 projects that had been approved & budgeted for the coming fiscal year. They had laid down the gauntlet, now I had to get myself, and them out of this predicament. I asked them to create a table (decision matrix) using an excel spreadsheet. Down the left column they were to place the names of the 768 projects (initiatives), across the top they were to list one attribute per column from their Mission Statement. The next step was to “tick” each project / initiative that addressed or fulfilled all of the six attributes. With one pass we had reduced the list by 50%.
Next, recognizing that 4 of the 6 attributes were long-range intentions (brand building), whereas 2 were short-range (results focused), we would score which of the remaining 384 projects most fulfilled the 2 short term (results based) criteria. Based on the priorities previously agreed & communicated by senior management, this years’ priorities were all about results (short-term). On the second pass of our improvised Decision Matrix. We were now down to 18 projects, something everyone agreed was manageable. Later they would go on to identify daily activities which would contribute to these projects, as well as other activities (that didn’t tick the Mission attributes) that would be dropped, delegated or outsourced..
Company Culture is Lived, NOT Preached
In the example above I facilitated an experience, a servant to the true needs of my client. When I finish an engagement, I always remind them that the tools & knowledge transfer I’ve left behind will die a quick death if they don’t live & breath everything they’ve learned. Leadership that delivers scale & greatness is not a process, it’s a habit and a consistent behavior.
How are you using your Company Culture & established priorities as filters for your decision making?