As a leader, you strive constantly to make your company more successful. You reply to emails at 4:30 AM before an early flight and check them again at midnight. Your taxi time is consumed with calls and problem solving, and those problems remain in mind while carving the Thanksgiving turkey.
Most of your employees, too, care deeply about the company’s success. Few, however, as intensely as you. Yet, their decisions, actions, and concerns matter in aggregate far more than yours. You help create their work environment. You hire and develop managers, you approve investments in facilities and assets, and you shape policies and something called “culture.” Despite what you hear, the internet did NOT change everything. Over forty years ago, Jan Carlzon, then CEO of SAS wrote “Moments of Truth,” which pointed out the pivotal role of front-line employees in a business’ success or failure. This remains true today. Whether at a counter, in a factory, or in a car heading for a sales call, the front line drives the bottom line.
What do those employees need to succeed? At a minimum, two things. First, they need a well-structured workplace. Roles and objectives must be clear, well-managed processes guide work and lock-in learning, and systems and reporting focus attention providing early warning of problems. Cross-group tensions can stimulate creativity, but someone must manage those debates and bringing them to definitive conclusions. Employees need a “clean” working environment. This takes concerted effort. You cannot do it to them, you must do it with them.
Second, employees need a sense of purpose. They need to feel their work matters, understand their roles and how they contribute to success. Workers should feel pride in the company’s business. For over 130 years, SC Johnson has mattered not only to its customers but also to its employees. Rio Tinto’s Oyu Tolgoi mining project not only produces copper and gold, it also has the power to transform the Mongolian economy. Employees need “meaningful” work – their role, their company, their community.
In meetings, articles and books the phrase “lean & mean” has become the “um…” that fills dead air with hot air. Today, when employees hear “lean & mean,” most think “layoffs!” Proudfoot knows that Clean & Meaningful are the cornerstones of any company’s success. The best leaders bring the “C” to “lean” and add “ingful” to “Mean.”
The other components – assets, processes, systems & IT, and intellectual property – matter. It is unarguably true that “lean discipline” is crucial. However, the finest automobile is useless without a skilled, motivated driver. The performance of your company depends on hundreds of drivers operating thousands of vehicles making tens of thousands of decisions every day.
What if you could capitalize on your people's talent and energy to build lasting success? With Proudfoot, you can.
Article by Nick Palmer, EVP, Transformation, Proudfoot.