Archives For organizational insight

Let’s talk about what it means to work Across Boundaries…. because the reality is that it can mean many things to many people.  In my world, working across boundaries is about lateral thinking… really comprehending that you are a single piece of a much larger puzzle and that your piece has a significant impact on the larger whole. It also means having the capacity to move across those boundaries to absorb knowledge from one context or discipline and apply it back into your area of expertise to create a free-flow of information – increasing your knowledge and the potential to “create a better mousetrap”. Think Leonardo DaVinci:

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Working across boundaries, more than anything else, means working together to solve problems that cannot be solved ~ or easily solved ~ by a single person, department or business unit.  It is critical that you, as a leader, consider (and learn from) the overall system and expect every person across every department to work together to figure out how to improve the overall experience for customers both internally and externally – the rest will naturally follow. The reality (whether you want to acknowledge it or not) is that you are part of a system… a network… an interconnected structure involving many people and multiple linkages.  Without each component part of the whole, there is little to offer the customer… or the market.

Despite the necessity of collaboration,  organizations are complex – engaging across boundaries can present several challenges. Because Networks are inter-organizational, cross-departmental and interpersonal, different stakeholders across that network have differing:

  • Points of view (by default)
  • objectives and missions
  • micro-cultures and perspectives
  • methods of operation – purpose, policies, procedures and systems.
  • financial models (i.e. cost centers versus profit centers)
  • degrees of power
  • challenges/opportunities
  • decision-making capacities
  • Sources of conflict within network and with the customer

Despite the challenges, continually improving organizational performance is what matters and that can only happen with collaboration across both horizontal and vertical boundaries. It is critical for your company to get everyone working together in order to “build that better mousetrap”. We all know how important it is to work effectively across organizational boundaries, however multi-functional, multi-cultural, multi-level teamwork is unnatural. The innate tendency of organizations is to optimize within a business unit or department rather than understanding that every aspect of the company is part of a living system and optimizing for the global customer experience or enterprise acceleration. Too often, the sum of the parts doesn’t create a high-performing whole. Getting people to collaborate and learn from one another across boundaries typically requires a crisis… or aggressive edicts from organizational leadership (which can also backfire if not delivered appropriately).

Suppose for a moment you are the Chief Operations Officer of a multinational company and you want to improve the experience of customers worldwide, while also reducing the cost of overall operations. Who do you need to involve in improving the process?

Product Development creates the product…

Operations produces it…

Sales sells it…

Legal reviews it and creates the contracts…

Implementation Management implements it…

Customer Relations maintains the relationship after the sale…

Finance invoices and tracks financial progress…

BUT the customer will ultimately pay for the product and decide if you are a good partner overall.

In a typical scenario, each department is a separate business with its own objectives, business practices, culture, and information systems.  However, without all the component parts coming together to deliver the product or service, there is nothing to offer the market.  As a leader facilitating people working effectively across boundaries you need to understand, accommodate and help people understand that:

  • Departments and their people have ongoing, critical inter-dependencies that require cross-boundary interactions on a regular basis
  • It is natural that every department or business unit will have both common and competing goals – they must find common ground and “third best ways” of operating for organizational and customer benefit
  • As part of an integrated workplace, your people work in an elastic environment – groups will expand and contract as needed
  • Members need to be both participative and authoritative, depending on the circumstance
  • People need to see both the forest and the trees – understanding the system as a whole is critical, but they also must consider the people and components within the system in order to be successful
  • They must balance advocacy and inquiry, again depending on circumstance

If your organization truly wants to maximize shareholder value (and be around in another 10 years), continually working across boundaries to improve organizational results and the customer experience is the answer – which will drive competitive advantage, revenue and contract viability.

With the inherent challenges  (and opportunities) that come with working across boundaries:

How can you, as a leader,  leverage a multi-functional, multi-level, multi-cultural network of people to optimize overall operations… rather than optimizing each business units objectives?

How can you create an environment that embraces  the objective of cost reduction, while at the same time “thrilling” the customer?

And how do you do this when changes to the system may create winners and losers – internally and externally?

Leonardo da Vinci once said:

“I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough; we must apply. Being willing is not enough; we must do.”

He was right. Taking action is critical to enhancing operations and elevating the customer experience. Every single BU has the capacity to see through “new eyes” and gain new perspective by working within the system, as opposed to working only within its own boundaries. Remember – Arms, Wings, Flying Machines… the possibilities are endless!

Please engage the discussion and let us know how you view working across boundaries.

Stay tuned – we will discuss the answers to these questions!

Have questions or need an expert to help you in your global organization? Contact me at SheriLMackey@gmail.com.

Welcome back to Leadership Across Boundaries & Borders!  I can be reasonably sure, most of you would tell me that you are efficiently managing your resources – cutting costs, increasing productivity, etc.  – all good and honorable duties respectable leaders are expected to perform. However, For the next several weeks I will be discussing resource maximization of a specific type – Human Resources… People Potential – and your ability to leverage your resources across the organization and across the globe for all-encompassing  corporate and interpersonal success.

 

Many of us like to believe that, with a good plan, we can direct an action, change a process, standardize the business, etc., but if that is all you are focused on, your likely percentage of success is very low.  The reality of any business situation is that you need people to DO something in order for your plan/action/change/etc. to succeed.  How, in a globally dispersed environment, you inspire employees to bring their talents, initiative, imagination, and passion to work every day is the very delineation between success and failure.  It may seem like a lofty concept, but it is absolutely essential to your long-term success – first and foremost, never forget PEOPLE are absolutely essential to your success. Continue Reading…

Successful Strategy

November 9, 2017 — Leave a comment

GlobalSolutions

I was in a meeting with a senior executive recently, when he shared his concern that the processes and approaches the company is using to develop the corporate strategy may not take the business forward as planned, but backward. As we discussed his challenges, there were some key gaps that the organization was likely to fall into that could easily be avoided with a strong planning process. So, here are a few of the more prominent reasons organizations fall into the strategic planning gap…How many of these are evident in your business?

Reason Number 1: Lack of leadership engagement

One important reason behind a company’s inability to create a visible and viable strategy is that, frequently, key senior leaders are not appropriately engaged in the development process. This frequently means that critical success factors are not considered, priorities are unclear, and incomplete strategies are developed. Leaders must immerse themselves in the process to understand how the gears of the business engage – how their domain aligns to and fits with the other critical pieces within the corporation.  Critical insights and knowledgeable contributions regarding all aspects of the business will provide the pivot point for the strategic planning process – key decisions emerge from a compilation and understanding of leader’s perspectives. Companies often believe that strategic plans can be developed in one or two day strategic planning sessions – this is simply not true. Strategic planning is a dedicated process that is developed over a period of time with all senior leaders engaged and participating – not to mention, an ongoing process that drives the ability to stay ahead of the competition.  Without a strong process for engaging leaders and formulating strategic plans as a unit, companies often end up with plans that are meaningless from a strategic point of view.

Continue Reading…

Slide1Last week I was at a conference with the key focus of understanding creativity – in its many forms.  I really wanted to better understand how I could steer clients toward “creativity” from a business perspective – in such a way that they will become not only the best leaders they can be, but the best individuals they can be overall. There was time built in to ponder our own potential and discover how to continuously re:create ourselves from an artistic perspective, but it was interesting to me – there was no mention of business leaders and how we, too, can leverage creativity in different ways to become exceptional.

Continue Reading…

Innovation.   Integration.   Motivation.

Once last time, three simple words… Each of these is extremely complex and rarely executed.

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In order to win the war for global domination, we must engage both our colleagues and our employees on three key battlefields: Innovation, Integration and Motivation. This week, we will address the third of these combat zones: Motivation.

We don’t need Research to tell us that a motivated, engaged and responsive workforce is substantially more productive than unmotivated, apathetic troops. When workers feel engaged, they are more likely to work harder for the good of the company because they can see first-hand what their contributions mean to its success. Employees who work with passion and feel a deep connection to the company are the ones who drive innovation, take more initiative, deliver higher quality work and move the organization forward.

Want to encourage and inspire motivation? First, understand what motivation at work is – really. Continue Reading…

 

Innovation.   Integration.   Motivation.

Three simple words… however, implementation is extremely complex and rarely executed.

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In today’s challenging environment, leadership has never been more complex.  As leaders, we are the Commanders of our troops and have a responsibility to ensure we are consistently pushing forward to ensure victory. While the obvious route is to cut costs, limit availability of resources, manage cash efficiently and hold down the fort until reinforcements arrive – this is merely defensive maneuvering.  It is absolutely essential that we, as leaders, recognize that we cannot win the war of sustainable competitive advantage without going on the offensive to courageously engage people as a competitive weapon to ensure we are victorious. Continue Reading…