Thursday, December 23, 2010

Making work more workable

Happy hour. Thank God it’s Friday. Working for the weekend.

We’re conditioned to think the best part of work is not having to do it anymore, that we’re trading 40 hours on the job for a couple of days on the lake, in the garden, at the game. Anywhere but there.

Work isn’t like that for everybody, of course, and it doesn’t have to be like that for anybody. When we talk about organizational excellence, we’re talking about making the work life better for all those involved, from the boiler room to the board room.

It’s not easy, but it is possible. Through strategic planning and creation of inspired mission and vision statements that are acted out every day, a company can create a plan for the future that benefits everybody it touches: employees, stockholders, customers, vendors, and the communities in which it works.

This endeavor is a job in its own right. It takes the commitment of leadership and management and the ability to think long term. It also involves the participation of employees and requires them to think beyond the next paycheck. It doesn’t hurt to have a knowledgeable, objective third party involved, which is where we come in.

The payoff is a strong understanding of where the organization is going, why it’s going there, and how it’s going to get there.

The why involves the benefits for all parties. Those benefits are going to be different for every organization, but generally speaking, this means that one group won’t prosper at the expense of other groups. The company’s shareholders will see a return on investment while employees are treated well. Vendors will be treated fairly while customers receive a good value. In fact, each group should and will be as well off as possible.

As you mull all of this over, please don’t confuse benefits with getting your way. This doesn’t mean that everybody makes six figures while sitting in a corner office. After all, most offices only have four corners, and there’s only so much money coming in the door.

It does mean everybody can go to work understanding how they are contributing to a bigger picture and how they are part of an effort that’s grander than their own needs.

In this environment, we’re all still going to look forward to our family, leisure and other life activities, but we’ll also look forward to hitting the ground running on Monday mornings and not keep such a close eye on the clock when we’re there. For most people, that right there would be a benefit in its own right.

So, organizational excellence in the 21st century can and should be totally achievable – and be absolutely fun. This brief note suggests the mindset starting point.