Sometimes you read something that makes you pause and take a second look. The following quote from Colin Powell was in the sidebar of a newsletter I received last week, and it caused me to pause.
“Organization doesn’t really accomplish anything. Plans don’t accomplish anything, either. Theories of management don’t matter much. Endeavors succeed or fail because of the people involved. Only by attracting the best people will you accomplish great deeds.”
In his blog, Finding the Right Person, Greg Thiesen talked about the importance of having a good recruiting process so that organizations were able to hire the best people. General Colin Powell, in the quote above, agrees with the importance of having great people in your organization, but seems to take issue with some of our other beliefs about the value of planning and organization (remember Kimberly Kelsey talked about a clean desk in her post a few weeks ago? ).
Looking more closely at some of General Powell’s other public comments on the subject shows that he doesn’t mean that there is no value in preparation, methodology or business philosophy, but that achieving success requires having the right people who have full buy-in and the right environment in which to deploy the plans, processes and values.
So how does an organization that has great people ensure that their planning, organizational needs and business focus don’t get in the way of exceptional performance? General Powell’s advice is to create an environment where your top managers can use all their talents to achieve whatever your organization’s goals might be. That environment should include the right tools to lighten the management burden and not weigh managers down with responsibilities that don’t improve results.
We all want our best people – especially our best managers – to solve problems, set new benchmarks and be innovative. If rewards come for getting paperwork turned in on time and there’s no recognition for improved employee satisfaction, it’s easy to see how most managers will prioritize tasks.
If you want your key people to truly add value and not get stuck in the process or theory stage, consider whether your organization supports the following:
Data and reports: top managers want key data now so they can adjust, build on what’s working or take corrective action when something’s out of line. An environment in which managers have tools to promote analysis and action plans based on that data stands in contrast to an environment in which reports are submitted in hopes that the numbers won’t attract attention or cause scrutiny from above.
Compliance and standards: maintaining brand standards and regulatory compliance are critical activities for all organizations, but they should be regular, ongoing processes and not items that require daily intervention from the manager. Does your organization ensure that all employees are aware of and deliver on your standards every day?
Communication: does your organization rely on post-it notes or is there a formal plan for communicating critical news? If your manager’s key communication tools include Sharpie markers and push pins, they may be missing out on the opportunity to discuss the reason for the communication and respond to any concerns before they create problems.
Opportunities: top managers don’t want to spend their work days in the extremes of crisis management or dull routine. They seek an environment in which routine responsibilities are handled quickly and efficiently and they have access to the right resources to quickly dispatch crisis situations. That allows them to work on projects that provide more challenge, creativity or move the organization forward.
To get the most out of your most talented people, take a tip from General Colin Powell. Take care of the organizational stuff and have a good plan in place so they can move beyond the daily routine and position your team for success.