Updated: Mar 26, 2019
Your team at the cutting edge, – is it really making the cut?
Today, the business environment is so competitive, it could be a battlefield! A highly competitive setting, where business and even governments grasp at strategies to keep-up and grow.
Consequently, strategies which help organisations to respond to quick changing situations, gain favour. These strategies even become buzz-word techniques, which everyone wants to adopt. But even after spending money on “transformation”, everyone doesn’t get it right. Because, any strategy is just as good as its execution.
Execution, in turn, is just as good as the team at the cutting edge.
Meet the Cutting Edge.
Bulk of your typical organisation, are people, from any age group, on whose shoulders, the everyday success of their organisation or enterprise rests. The men and women who make up the bulk and bulwark of any company. Everyday, they carry the board-room strategies to tactical execution. They are the the point of contact, the cutting-edge. The focus of my writing today, is on the nature of this cutting edge and what it can be.
The cutting edge are the people you find, where the proverbial rubber meets the road. Those people, who flip the start-stop switches and turn mere processes to products, the person who smiles and talks to the client, the desk officer who sincerely notes a complaint and the diligent clerk as well, the advising accountant and so on.
More than just the individuals, the cutting edge is made of millions of such instances, where a person’s mind improvises to fill gaps, spot decisions are taken, a willing hand helps clear backlogs and such like. These form the pixels of success, which make up the bigger picture. The cutting edge, is the point of contact between your enterprise and the battlefield-like business environment.
In any organisation, in any situation, success hinges on how well the leaders know the led!
Sharpen the Edge – to use it.
In the rush to be able to function in the fast paced environment, corporate organisations focus far more on processes and training people for these process. Training your people for functional excellence is only one third of the story. The other two parts are – empowering people with an organisational culture that expects them to give their best; and building an atmosphere of trust where they feel secure to use initiative and think strategically, truly taking ownership. (Click here to read about “Excellence in Parts”)
Each industry or profession has quite specific demands which shape how individuals behave. Formal or informal effort and expense goes into training personnel on these behaviour related skill sets. Aspects like, customer centricity, safety consciousness, quality and standards, focus and concentration, mindfulness, co-ordination, even smiling appropriately. Very often, people are trained in these aspects, with no further connection to the prevailing culture of the company and they revert back to the old ways.
Use it or lose it. Just training people is not enough. As in the case of core functional training, to show bottom-line results, an organisation, as a policy, must demand the use of these behavioural skills. Take a cue from the hospitality industry. A culture of excellence will begin to grow. This step becomes possible, when the leadership of an organisation en-bloc, understand the value of individuals and their collaborative micro-skills, to the same detail that they account the value of materials and money.
Making the Cut.
If an organisation can prepare the cutting edge, to an extent where larger spheres of freedom in everyday decision making can safely be allowed at working level, with predictable outcomes, that organisation will have no problems in responding to fast changing situations. Such an organisation culture, encourages ground level initiative of a very high order. When many eyes watch out and prepare for events, responses are easy to come by.
Example: Most military units, worth their salt, expect initiative of a high level, from their rank and file. The hall mark of a good military unit is an individual’s trust and belief in their own human ability and the unit’s expectation of them each an every day. This simply stated expectation, enables them to take good crucial just-in-time micro-decisions, which build up to big-impact outcomes. No matter what is ‘incoming’, nor how fast.
How does a leader get this level of trust and predictable outcomes?
Communicate short term goals, derived from the overall strategy, to everyone, clearly! Personally demonstrate, repeat and reiterate.
Visibly allow the expected responsibility and sphere of freedom, to each individual lowest to highest! Repeat.
Acknowledging effort as well as success. Repeat on every opportunity. ... for as long as it takes.
Where everyone is a cog in the wheel, if each nut realises what would fall apart if they don’t hold fast, the wheel would keep turning smoothly.
Expect to be amazed. In time, people out-perform that expectation. That means, as new tech and processes come in, people willingly adapt and re-skill. Newcomers and interns imbibe the “can-do” attitude. Satisfaction comes from within.
Raising such a culture takes time and effort of honing the cutting edge, by the hand that holds the sword, but it is worth its value in returns.
The author is Lead-Coach and co-founder of Explode Programmes.