Posted on August 4, 2014 · Posted in Uncategorized
Leading Change: Setting the Vision for the Path Forward
“Where there is no vision, the people perish”
Proverbs 29.18
If you’re like most senior leaders, you’re buried in minutiae: paperwork , eMail, meetings and phone calls.  When you have time, you sift through data to see how things are going.  If they aren’t going according to plan?  Then more meetings, eMails and phone calls.  The question begs to be asked, when do you find time to lead?
If you believe leading is important, I hope I don’t need to convince you that managing is not leading. 

Don’t get me wrong, both skills are needed, but without leadership, the organization just bumps along.  It does what it did yesterday, hopefully better, yet never achieving greatness, and sometimes, not even goodness.
And what is it that leaders do?  They provide VISION.  As the quotation from Proverbs states, “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  And who are the people?  It’s your organization.  Your organization perishes when you don’t have a vision for where they’re going.
How do you change that?  First, acknowledge that if you do nothing, things are likely to get worse, not better.
Next, you need to shed load.  You need to start training those below you to shoulder more of the burden.  
How?  You begin to mentor and coach them.  Explain what’s really important and what is less so.  Using the Socratic method, ask them how they’d resolve the problems they bring to you.  If their answer is good, send them off to execute it.  If not, explain why and ask them for a better approach.  Once they’ve got an acceptable approach, send them off to execute it.

In other words: don’t give them fish, teach them to fish.
As your subordinates begin to shoulder more of what had been your load, you now have time to look forward.  What are you looking for?  Industry trends, technology trends, market trends.  You look over the horizon and plan where to go next.
You now make time to discuss these trends with your colleagues, your staff and with industry experts.  You make time to think deeply about the trajectory of the future and what your organization will need to do to lead it.
When you’re ready, you bring your staff together and conduct a Hoshin Kanri event.  Hoshin Kanri is a process to guide your organization through the determination of its strategic destination, what some call True North.  The result of a Hoshin Kanri is a detailed plan to achieve the breakthrough objectives that will set your organization apart from others in your industry.
Once your plan is complete, you begin assigning people or teams responsibility for pursuing each element of the plan.  They’ll report to you no less frequently than once a month until the plan is achieved.  Each year, you’ll conduct a new Hoshin Kanri.  At it, you’ll refresh last year’s plan, eliminating things you achieved and adding new.
In the space of a few months, you have:.
  • Turned your personal focus from the “tyranny of the inconsequential many,“ to a plan to achieve the “critical few.”
  • Demonstrated to your direct reports how to cascade important decision-making skills.
  • Grew your subordinates’ capabilities to make good decisions.
  • Made your organization more nimble by making good decisions closer to the level where they are needed.
  • Developed new capacity in your own day; and, no doubt, grew closer to the image you’ve always had of a great leader.
  • Made time in your day to Go and See for yourself what’s really going on in your organization.
  • Set the expectation that, in the future, your staff and their direct reports are going to move from a model of reactive management to proactive leadership.
All in all, not a bad day’s work.
Keep the faith.  Meanwhile, Get Lean and Stay Lean.