Sunday, August 5, 2012

Transformation? Not Without Purpose

Create constancy of purpose toward improvement of product and service, with the aim to become competitive, stay in business and to provide jobs. W. Edwards Deming

One of the most common roadblocks companies face when attempting a lean deployment is a lack of clarity around the organization’s fundamental purpose.  Without a clear and consistent understanding of why the business exists and what it is expected to accomplish, any attempt to transform the culture will lead to frustration, disappointment, and eventual abandonment of the effort.

Identifying Waste?

Waste exists in virtually every process, and can be identified and reduced without a significant amount of effort.  When the organization does not have a clear purpose, however, improvements tend to be superficial and transformation does not occur.

When leaders consistently drive focus around the company’s core business, it becomes easier to identify the systems and policies that interfere with serving customers.  It is unfortunately fairly common to see systems related to performance evaluation, IT, recruiting and hiring, and other areas that are overly complex or do little to help the organization meet the needs of its customers.  Without constancy of purpose, however, there is no lens with which to evaluate whether a system truly adds value or not.

Begin With Purpose

The Cambridge Dictionary of American English defines an organization as, “a group whose members work together for a shared purpose in a continuing way.”  Without a shared purpose, there is no organization.  There is only a group of people who come to work each day, spend time on what they feel is important, and go home.

The purpose does not need to be sophisticated, creative or witty.  It just needs to be clear and unchanging.  Although not necessarily an easy thing to do, clarifying and living in accordance with the purpose helps people understand the value the organization provides and, when this happens, transformation truly begins to occur.