You design systems to ensure predictable outcomes. Most systems are rather straightforward, requiring employees to be aware, engaged, and paying attention. On the other hand, complex systems require intense concentration on procedures, measurements, timing, and other factors that cannot be compromised. World-class companies are defined by their consistent ability to execute their systems flawlessly. Discipline is embedded into their cultures.
When systems of any kind are compromised, inconsistent results occur. Material waste, labor cost, missed deadlines, upset customers, and stress all impedes forward progress. When inconsistencies get out of control, media coverage can do major damage to a company’s product, service, and reputation. Anyone taking a Carnival cruise anytime soon? I think not.
Here are some no-compromise strategies to purge your company of costly inconsistencies:
Leadership allows it: I figured I would nail this one first because leaders, no matter how much they despise inconsistency, watch it occur everyday in their companies and do little or nothing to address it. Systems and standards of performance must be built on a foundation of shared accountability. Accountability is doing what needs to be done and taking ownership in the success of the company. Fact: too many leaders are uncomfortable leading with a high level of accountability. I’m not suggesting a company and its culture can’t be fun – I’m simply stating that accountability is tough work. Tony Hsieh’s book “Delivering Happiness” is his story of building Zappos’ fun culture. However, Amazon didn’t acquire Zappos in 2009 for $1.2 billion because it was all fun and no profit. Fun cultures can most certainly be accountable cultures. Leaders allow “average is good enough” in their companies.
- It’s not for everyone: Just as some leaders find leading a high accountability culture out of their comfort zone, many employees can’t deal with it either. Succeeding in a high accountability culture requires a solid work ethic and determination to excel. Sadly, there are employees that just want a job and a paycheck, and view showing up and going through the motions as good enough. Sorry but if you keep that employee on payroll, you continue to buy mediocre behavior and performance every time you hand them their paycheck. I don’t know about you, but I refuse to spend money on that kind of behavior.
- Factor of Ten: The “Factor of Ten” is my way of shining a laser beam on the importance of training and coaching your team members to master your systems and processes. You can’t hand them a manual or show them a video module and expect the level of mastery necessary to eliminate costly inconsistencies. Training and coaching is non-negotiable. Inspecting and correcting is non-negotiable. Taking personal interest in guiding employees to achieve their full potential is non-negotiable. Achieving world-class performance and status begins with world-class training and coaching. No compromise.
- Ditch the Micro: Micro-management is what inexperienced, control freak leaders do. It’s exhausting, stressful, and stifling for leaders that do it and the poor souls that try to function under it. Micro-management is a culture based on distrust and finding fault. It wears people down rather than building them up. It de-powers rather than empowers people to take responsibility and initiative. Got all that? Good. Stop micro-managing. Let go of some of the controls and see what happens. Give your people an opportunity to shine. Coach them when they make a poor decision. Celebrate them when they achieve a win.
- Your “World Class”: Define what world class means to you and your company. Engage your employees in the process so they have ownership in the definition and the outcome. Attach that to your company vision. Make it a focal point for the next six months. Talk about it. Meet about it. Have constructive dialogue about it. Begin living it.
In the end, it’s about being the best based on your own terms. No compromise.