In any strategic planning exercise there is a flow chart, which takes you through the whole process, starting with vision and ending with the action to be taken and, if necessary, revised.
It is received wisdom that in an aligned organisation the leader engages talented people and then gets out of their way to allow them the freedom to work in the way that is best for them.
However there are two major factors in the strategic planning process which in many cases are the sole province of the leader:
· The vision for the organisation
· The values espoused by the organisation
One can consolidate these factors into the Culture of the business and defining that is perhaps one of the major facets of the leader’s role.
The leader must define the culture that is right for the business and then drive it into the organisation without fear or favour.
Particularly in the case of an owner-managed business, the vision for the future really does begin and end with the leader. In businesses where the leader is either a part owner or a hired gun, the vision will still form a major part of the planning process as instituted by the leader.
A truly crucial part of this process is the determination of the values of the business and once again it is the province of the leader to articulate them and to ensure that not only are they communicated at all levels, but they must be followed visibly and constantly.
It is worth a look at the values that were listed by a well-known company as the way that they do business:
“We have an obligation to communicate. Here, we take the time to talk with one another… and to listen. We believe that information is meant to move and that information moves people.”
“We treat others as we would like to be treated ourselves. We do not tolerate abusive or disrespectful treatment.”
“We work with customers and prospects openly, honestly and sincerely. When we say we will do something, we will do it; when we say we cannot or will not do something, then we won’t do it.”
“We are satisfied with nothing less than the very best in everything we do. We will continue to raise the bar for everyone. The great fun here will be for all of us to discover just how good we can really be.”
Brilliant! If only every organisatioon could espouse values like that always provided that these values are lived and everyone accepts them.
The problem is that these were the corporate values listed in the 2001 Annual Report of ENRON and that should send a strong message to all those leaders who think that all they have to do is to write some heart-warming words and, lo and behold, the deed is done.
Not so. Until the values are properly communicated and then visibly acted upon they will cause more trouble than they solve.
The problem is that may companies produce a list of values, then put them in a nice frame, hang them in a prominent place in Reception and promptly think that is all that is needed. It is a real “cut and paste’ exercise and I am sure that if the framed epic were swapped with those of another company no-one would notice the difference.
Evolve a list of the values in which you truly believe and then ask your people: “Which of these corporate value statements best describe our company?” and “Which of them least describe our company?”
Then ask the same questions of your major customers and your major suppliers. You may get a surprise and let’s hope that it will be a happy one.
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