February 14, 2013
A couple of months ago I took my car to the shop to get four new tires. I knew that winter was coming and I didn’t want to be caught out on slick or snowy roads with bald tires. So I went to a place that was advertising a great sale on four tires expecting to leave there having spent under $200. Of course you know where this story is going… The tires I needed for my car costs more than the tires on sale and then I also needed balancing and alignment so that the car would drive properly. And the best deal would be to purchase the top of the line tires with lifetime balancing and alignment for a grand total of over $700!!! After I composed myself mentally (because of course I couldn’t let them see me sweat), I declined the lifetime balancing and alignment and selected another tire model that was sufficient but not the top of the line. Remember I came there with bald tires so I figured any new tire I purchased would be a definite improvement. As I drove away with my four new tires balanced and aligned I replayed the scenario in my head and asked myself, “Did I make the right decision?” “Since I bought the average tires instead of the top of the line ones, would it have been better to have lifetime balancing and alignment?” Maybe I could have extended the life of my average tires with lifetime balancing and alignment.
As leaders in our organizations don’t we sometimes make the same kind of questionable decisions? When our teams are in bad shape, they are operating like four bad tires. Productivity is down. Morale is low. Attendance is poor. And we know that challenges are ahead, critical deadlines are looming, and end-of-year reports are coming due. Unfortunately we sometimes choose to implement temporary fixes to the problem rather than incorporating solutions that will lead to lifetime organizational balance and alignment. We schedule more status meetings and assign more action items to track progress and attendance. We schedule team-building activities hoping morale will improve. However, if the organization is out of alignment and the team members don’t have balance in their lives brought about by understanding organizational expectations, these strategies are likely to be ineffective in the long run.
Organizations must first ensure that everyone in the organization understands what the strategic vision is for the organization. What is it they want to achieve and when would they like to hit those targets? Next, everyone in the organization must understand where their particular function fits into helping the organization achieve its vision. If the team members don’t know how their role aligns with the bigger picture, they won’t feel as committed to achieving it. Finally, and in my opinion most importantly, each team member must understand what needs to be done to execute the vision. They need specific tasks with milestones and in some cases specific steps to accomplish each task. Colin Powell said, “The freedom to do your best means nothing unless you are willing to do your best.” I would add to his statement, “Being willing to do your best means nothing if you don’t know what to do.” Without a clear vision, an understanding of how you align with the vision, and specific methods and tools to execute the vision, you are basically like four bald tires without lifetime balance and alignment.