First Posted April, 17, 2009.
The changes that confront us require us to think in new ways. We need to think creatively about the development of our businesses, as if we are starting over.
Even if our business is a staple of every other business, we need to begin thinking differently. Regardless of what we do, the demand for us to be creative in approaching every aspect of our organizations is growing with greater urgency.
How to be creative in a time of great change.
It will be helpful to have my Circle of Impact Leadership Guides as a reference.
The image here is a simplified version of my Circle of Impact. The focus is on creating impact, which means making a difference or creating change. In order to understand the true results of your company, you must ask what is the impact of all three of these areas.
What is the Impact of our Relationships?
What is the Impact of our Organizational Structure?
These Three Dimensions of Leadership, shown here, are the three areas where leaders must take initiative in order to be effective in creating impact. The aim is to bring them into alignment.
Many people I know think their business primarily functions within the Organizational Structure dimension. This is where all their energy is focused. The Ideas and Relationships dimensions are ancillary ones, drawn upon when needed, but not as essential as the structure of the business.
I've found that organizations are not just the activities of a business. The Ideas and Relationships dimensions are important as centers of creative initiative.
Being creative within the Organizational Structure dimension?
The following questions are a good starting point for discovering perspective.
Write down your thoughts as we go through this little exercise.
Can you describe this purpose in one sentence? If not, then the Idea of what your purpose is needs clarification. If you can't state simply what the purpose of the impact of your business is - what difference it makes - how can you organize your business to achieve it?
Now ask this question,
What is our purpose as a business?
How is our business structured to fulfill this purpose? Are they compatible?
Write something down so you capture what you are thinking right now. There are no perfect answers, only the perception of your business as it exists at this moment.
How to distinguish between measuring results by numbers and by impact.
We make assumptions about what a business is based on past experience. We assume that a business is a set of activities that we repeat to produce results. And the easiest way to determine results is with numbers. It is much harder to measure our business' results by determining the impact of our business. Even with these simple guides that I've given you, it is hard. Being creative is hard work.
You go on vacation. When you return, you don't talk numbers, you talk about the experiences you had. You show your pictures of beautiful scenery and happy times with family and friends. You don't show your receipts from the hotel or gas card. You know how much your vacation cost. The numbers matter, but they don't tell what is most important. Your experiences are the measure of whether your vacation's purpose (mission) has achieved its impact. A great vacation impacts you and the relationships you have with the people who went with you. That difference matters and is why you will go on vacation again.
The experiences you had on vacation were personal taking place in Relationships. The measure of impact is partially determined by the values that you share.
For example, if you all are rock climbers, then you share the values of physical challenge, and if your vacation doesn't include rock climbing, your experience is probably less than what it could have been. Values matter in determining the difference being achieved.
How do those values impact how you have organized your business?
Write this down.
For example, if you want to put people first in your business, which many businesses say is a core value, then how do you organize to insure that this value is living in your business?
Let's take this to a deeper level of consideration.
The Organizational Structure dimension consists of four categories of activity.
Governance consists policy making, strategic development for the future and oversight of the chief executive. Products/Services/Programs includes what you are providing to clients and customers. Operations/Administration is the support function of the busienss. Resources are financial, human and organizational.
What does it mean for the Board of your company to put people first? Would your employees agree? How about your customers?
How about the support function of product fulfillment? Do your customers think you put people first when they must return an item or get a corrected bill?
The experience that people have with the Organizational Structure of businesses is how they measure the impact of the company's values. If there is a discrepancy between the stated values, and their experience, then the company has a problem creating the difference that matters.
Being creative is hard work, but it is the work that elevates your business to a new level. The impact of this hard work is greater impact, better results, and change that matters for the long term. And if you are not presently involved in a developmental process that is creating these changes, then you are behind the curve, and harder times await.
There is more here that I haven't touched on. We really haven't looked at the Ideas dimension or the place of visioning in creating impact. We haven't looked at the Relationship dimension with any depth either. There is still much to explore.
What is the benefit of this kind of approach to business development?
2. You create an environment of continuity in the midst of change.
3. You gain a new level of situational awareness, so that you understand what is happening before others do.
4. You find hope, joy and satisfaction in going to work every day.
5. You create a legacy of impact that you can pass along to future generations.
I feel a tremendous urgency about the time we are living in. We need skills for creating impact in the midst of radical, disruptive change. We must learn how to create the conditions for growing sustainable businesses. If you are thinking that business is going to be the same when this recession is over, I'm sorry, it won't be, already isn't, and will only be more so five years from now.
If you want to take the next step, let me know. I'll work with you to begin the process of change that makes sense and creates the difference you identify. This is what I do every day, and I welcome the opportunity to work with you who read my blog. Thank you.