Reality: What A Concept
Reflections On The Baldrige Winners
John Runyan Responds
I like this question and its thoughtful challenge for three reasons. First, its wording calls for a philosophic, even artistic response. Secondly, it allows me to comment on some existential organizational issues that I often face but rarely get a chance to discuss with my colleagues and clients. Finally, you imply that you are approaching the achievement of significant success in your change efforts - you're not mired in the early stages of these initiatives.
Obviously, one set of answers to these questions lies in the quantitative and analytic arena. "You're done when you have reached your specific targets and your overall goal. You're done when your performance is best in class against benchmarks that have been established in your industry. You're done when you've earned 100 percent of your possible bonus." And so on....
However, the master painter frame for your inquiry suggests that you are looking for something more difficult to measure and capture. To join you in your search, I need to start from a strongly held point of view, and then work my way in a personal fashion back to your bottom-line questions. I take this approach because I face the same real-life difficulties in my own working life.
I start with the premise that the first and greatest challenge in business today is to know and act on what really matters at the point of initiating any change effort. I believe that all of us, ranging from executives to managers to front-line staff to professional change agents, are faced with the dilemma of sorting out what really matters from an ever-increasing swirl of opportunities, problems, activities and distractions. Every day brings a greater clamor of information, input, data and debate. In the midst of this highly charged environment, my colleagues and I do well to keep our heads on our shoulders and above water, most of the time.
As a result, I spend more and more time in a triage process. Ever in search of what may better inform me, guide me and eventually focus my efforts toward what really matters, I sift and sift through voice-mail, e-mail, regular mail, mail from the press and the pundits and a myriad of publications, not to mention my own thoughts, feelings and aspirations.
It Ain't Easy
For you who are approaching "the most efficient processes and systems," what ever your particular masterpiece may be, I salute you. Sorting through degrees of success and satisfaction in today's organizational world is an enviable position.
While the criteria for saying, "we're
done" may be primarily quantitative, I also suggest
listening to your feelings, energy and spirit to hear
what they say about your progress. These are harder
things to assess and measure, but I believe that they are
equally important drivers of your actions and
contributors to your best decision making.
Whether we acknowledge them or not,
our energy, spirit and emotions produce these very
personal, human and unique guiding systems. Monitoring
the flows of these intangibles may seem unusual, awkward,
and perplexing, especially in business contexts where
thought and logic hold sway. However, "reading" ourselves
is crucial to making wise judgements about how and where
to invest our finite resources.
When your answers to these questions are factored into the judgement that you have to make about "what is enough," you'll have the best chance of coming to a wise choice for yourself and those around you.