Leadership for Change - aftermarketNews

Leadership for Change

This week we start a series of articles on the subject of leadership for change. Whether you’re a senior executive whose goal is to transform the entire organization, or a first-time manager trying to improve your department’s performance, we think you’ll find something useful.

AMN Perspectives by Thomas Group: Experience at Work

Posted: May 18, 2004, 9 a.m., EST

by John Steidl, Thomas Group consultant and Mike Manor, president, Automotive Aftermarket, Thomas Group

IRVING, TX — This week we start a series of articles on the subject of leadership for change. Whether you’re a senior executive whose goal is to transform the entire organization, or a first-time manager trying to improve your department’s performance, we think you’ll find something useful.

In today’s world, leadership is, by definition, leadership for change. Leadership that does not understand the need, does not have a vision or does not know how to lead and mentor change is not effective leadership. Again, we’re not just talking about executives here — this applies at all levels in the organization.

Critical responsibilities of change leadership include:

* Creating a vision;

* Identifying the right initiatives;

* Controlling the number of active initiatives;

* Aligning priorities across the organization;

* Setting expectations and tracking performance;

* Developing cross-functional collaboration;

* Addressing escalated barriers;

* Staying personally involved and focused on finishing what’s been started before launching something new; and

* Hiring and promoting effective change agents.

Some of these responsibilities may seem obvious, and others less so. In coming weeks we’ll talk about all of them: what we mean, why they’re important and how to succeed at them.

Let’s start with the vision. This is not a mission statement. Nor is it a general statement like “be #1 in the industry” or “be the fastest growing” or “most profitable.” These broader visions are fine, but they’re not what we’re talking about. The kind of vision we’re trying to create is a very specific description of how things must be different in the future, because only when we can describe how things will be different, can we begin to define the specific initiatives that will be needed to get there.

Some examples of effective visions include:

For a company that competes based on the regular introduction of new products, a good vision would be to beat the competition to market by at least 3 months in every new product cycle.

For a company that competes based on asset turns, the vision might be to turn assets 50 percent faster than the next best competitor.

For an inventory management group, the vision might be to reach a (defined) service level that will provide competitive advantage in the market, while still achieving an aggressive company goal for asset turns.

For a supplier management team, the vision might be to increase supplier performance to the level necessary to achieve the service level and turns goals of the inventory management team or the factory.

As you can see, these are visions that apply at different levels in the organization. However they all have at least three things in common. First, they are visions that will drive improved competitiveness. Second, they are radical visions, meaning that they are about dramatic rather than incremental performance improvement. Third, they are interrelated, meaning that the goals of one function within the organization are tied to and rationalized with the goals of other functions. The process enterprise is important here, because it supports and facilitates the rationalization of functional goals in the context of higher-level process and enterprise goals. Companies that lack robust process management find it much more difficult to do this.

How do we go about defining the vision for our group, whether this is just one function or the entire enterprise? Broad input will result in a stronger vision. This usually means a cross-functional approach — even if the vision we’re creating applies to a single function. Because the goal is to create a radical vision, it’s also imperative to make sure we have enough contributors who can think out of the box. This is where people with experience from other companies or other industries can be very helpful. If we’re creating a vision below the level of the total enterprise, we also need to know what the total enterprise vision is, and how our group fits into it.

Conducting a brainstorming session with the right people can be a great way to define the vision and get buy-in for it. Some critical questions to ask in this process include:

* What are our weaknesses vs. the competition?

* How could we gain a significant competitive advantage?

* How can our group have the greatest impact in realizing the corporate vision?

* What needs to change in order to have that impact?

The answers to these questions should provide some solid ideas for what the vision needs to be.

Once a vision is created, the next step is to identify and manage specific initiatives that will make the vision a reality. We’ll talk more about that next time.

Thomas Group is a 25-year-old, experienced management consulting firm specializing in improving financial results by increasing speed and productivity, and measuring the drivers of these activities for organizations in a wide variety of industries.

For additional information, visit www.thomasgroup.com or call Mike Manor at 972-401-4444.

To write a letter to the editor, click here: [email protected].

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“AMN Perspectives by Thomas Group: Experience at Work” is written and sponsored by Thomas Group. The opinions expressed in “AMN Perspectives by Thomas Group: Experience at Work” articles appearing on aftermarketNews.com do not necessarily reflect the opinions of AMN or Babcox Publications.

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