Common Sense is Anything But Common

Why is it that most successful companies make things look simple? It’s because they are focused and keep things simple and straightforward. Unfortunately, most so-called improvements often add unnecessary complexity. This is particularly true for small and medium-sized businesses.

One of the best examples, for me, is giving directions to my home. I have my own favorite way because I think it is slightly quicker. However, when giving directions to guests, I keep it simple and send them the most logical and intuitive way. As in business, if I focus on the goal or the desired result, the correct method becomes very clear. In this case the goal is to have my guests arrive on time without getting lost rather than coming by the absolute fastest route.

In reality, there are very few truly new management ideas. Most are old ideas with new names and usually address symptoms rather than dealing with goals. Take a look at any of the “in” business theories or popular business books from 10 or 15 years ago. Then try to find one of your friends who are still following any of these gurus.

The problem is that many modern management theories are simplistic rather than simple, and there is a huge difference. Often they are applied as “one size fits all”. The reality is that what works in one organization may be totally inappropriate in another.

The keys to corporate success are simple. Where most companies get into difficulty is with the implementation. So what is the answer?

A clearly defined and effectively communicated picture of where the organization is going and what the future looks like.

This sounds simple, but in the rush of day-to-day events, many business owners and executives assume that everyone has the same picture in their mind of where the organization is going. In contemporary management speak this is “the vision thing,” and many entrepreneurs and executives have a vision for their business.

However, more often than not it is not effectively communicated. The result is often like telling your family you are going on vacation tomorrow, but not providing any details. Your son packs golf clubs while your daughter gets her skis out. Meanwhile you have ordered a cab to go to the airport, but find out your family has loaded the car. In the confusion you miss your flight.

A clear and concise plan for reaching the future that is understood by each employee.

This allows everyone to see how the organization’s goals and objectives can and will be met. In the most effective organizations, employees have input into the plan. Ideally the plan is crafted by the executive group, presented to staff for comment and feedback and returned to the executive group for finalization. Common sense, but not a common step in the planning process for most organizations.

Interim goals that enable everyone in the organization to understand their role and responsibility for securing the future of the organization.

Ownership and responsibility is everything and everyone in an organization should know and understand how their position and individual performance supports the organization’s goals and future. Successful companies offer opportunities for employees to contribute directly to the success of the organization. This connection must be clear for both staff and the company to reach their potentials.

A monitoring and accountability system for goal accomplishment that allows flexibility to adapt to changing circumstances.

To win any game you must keep score. The same is true in business.

Whatever your long-term goals are, they must be measurable, you must have a system to monitor your progress and all individuals in the organization must be accountable for delivering their personal piece of the targeted result or outcome. The system must be simple or it will not be followed. It must focus on those few vital issues that are critical to the success of the organization or you will spend too much time on the process or worse fail to monitor progress on a regular basis. With a simple system it is also easier to maintain the flexibility required in today’s rapidly changing marketplace.

For success there must be accountability. The organization must be accountable to itself and its employees must be accountable to the organization for their performance.

Top performers must be recognized for their contributions and under performers must be trained, coached or ultimately replaced. This discipline must be applied at all levels.

Employees must learn the necessary job specific skills, their role and responsibility for the success of the organization and how to be an effective team member.

Organizations must evaluate the capabilities required to achieve their goals and their staff must learn the necessary skills where there is a gap in knowledge. Also, in many organizations staff feel they have a job, but do not see a direct connection between what they do and the success of  the organization. This requires employees to learn the basics of business operations and planning/goal setting.

Lastly, staff must learn to become effective team members.

A mature and respectful environment based on trust and teamwork.

This starts at the top and leaders must “walk the talk”. Leaders must demonstrate respect and trust for their staff. They must also refuse to tolerate dysfunctional and negative behavior. This sounds logical, but the real test for most organizations is the willingness to terminate highly skilled staff or executives who are disruptive if not detrimental to the health and success of the organization.

There are very effective tools to help solve many of these issues. However, if they are applied piecemeal it is unlikely they will deliver the desired result. Your business will be much more successful and you will be much happier if you start with a future destination in mind and move towards it rather than focusing on what is not working today.

Your employees will readily follow you to the future, but will likely be less than cooperative about “fixing” today. Again, common sense. Creating something new is much more exciting than working on something that is broken.