Archives For Unity of Purpose

Last week we discussed working across boundaries and implementing a systems approach. This week, I am continuing the theme with an expansion of what it means to work across boundaries and some suggestions to help you do so successfully.

Working across boundaries means many things to many people… It can mean:

… working across organizational lines

… working across supervisory or leadership levels

… working across functions

… working across corporate entities (partners, resellers, etc.)

…working across customer lines

… working across physical confines

… working across cultural differences

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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.

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.

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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…

Of all the amazing experiences I have been so fortunate to have, across many different boundaries and borders, one of my very favorites is the unique opportunity I had to walk with lions in Zimbabwe.  While canoeing down the river Sabi (avoiding the hippos) was exciting, going on an elephant safari proved adventurous, swimming in The Devil’s Pool at the top of Victoria Falls was amazing and staying in the historic, luxurious Victoria Falls Hotel was, well… historic and luxurious, nothing compares to walking with lions. Many of you probably think I must be crazy – who wants to walk with wild lions? But this was a fascinating opportunity that offered many insights – and besides, how many chances do you get to walk with lions?

As I watched the lions approach, with only a walking stick in my hand and a pre-brief on lion behavior in my head, I wondered how I would engage these powerful creatures and what I could learn from them…

Here is just a bit of what I was reminded of through my encounter with the lions:

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“If you’re not appearing, you’re disappearing…”

~ Art Blakey, Legendary Jazz Musician

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 Networking is all about strategic communications. To increase your chance of success in everything you do, you need to communicate to expand your span of influence. Those that may be able to help you (now or in the future) need to know you and what you have to offer. They need to see you, meet you… hear from you. Although the natural tendency is to remain within your immediate environment, you need to move out of your comfort zone to ensure your own long-term success. If this is not enough to get you moving, think about these fundamental truths: Continue Reading…