The new fundamentals of business have changed and this is good. We have moved from feudal hierarchy through the structures of the industrial revolution to command and control and now to something very different. The prior incarnations have at least one thing in common, that of an all powerful ‘boss’ lording over the faceless masses of workers. Not so popular these days. The most successful organizations have an almost flat hierarchy. Everyone has access to everyone. With that comes responsibility too. Everyone is responsible for the success of the venture. Pointing and accusing ‘the others’ as bad mangers or incompetent workers is rarely tolerated, let alone agreed to be the true issue.
One of the fundamental changes in the approach to the advancement of the company is the use of simple models, essence words, almost like a list of slogans. Not everyone has the same language, so like the daily newspaper, the language of the common denominator is best.
If everyone is to understand and to cooperate for maximum effect, the group needs to rally behind a common goal and use a common set of values from which to achieve it. Great efforts are being made to bring people together, to share vision using feeling words, not just numbers and charts and to invite input to help describe what it is the organization is attempting to accomplish. Bringing very large organizations together under one mantra, that people can all understand and can all contribute to, is the new business operations model. A computer on every desk initially rallied the success we call MicroSoft. Allan Mulally, then CEO, resurrected Open the highways to every person, as the call at Ford while it struggled to come back from the edge around 2010. The statement must be simple so that every employee can relate what they do, their own job, to the accomplishment of the vision. MicroSoft and Ford do well.
A theme of the leadership approach is to keep things amazingly simple. If we can make the needed parts easy to remember, more people will step up to lend support. The 4-3-2-1 approach supports this success principle.
The ‘4’ of the 4-3-2-1
The venerable business plan can be reduced to an easy to remember four steps
- What do we sell?
- Who buys?
- Why from us?
- How do we make money?
This is so simple that you may have already memorized it. You can work on it while riding the elevator or when stopped for a red light. Every part can have as many sub-parts as the present situation requires. The four parts provide four bases to return to in any conversation about the business.
The ‘3’ of the 4-3-2-1
The foundation of the Business Plan can be described using three elements
- Our vision, our ‘why’
- Strategy, our approach to realizing our ‘why’
- Plan, the exact steps needed, yes, written
Again, we have but three words to remember, vision, strategy, plan. Again, we can give attention to any or all of these while we go for a walk in the park. MBA not required. Notice which parts of the brain this trio engages. Creativity, possibility, excitement.
The ‘2’ of the 4-3-2-1
The two measures that need to be agreed and made very visible to the people in the company are
- What is the target result?
- When is that target to be met?
Kind of obvious. Yet, even though many organizations may have invested considerable effort into defining those two items, not many have done the evangelization work to achieve complete buy-in from the people, at all levels. The ‘2’ part of this model is to gain that sincere company-wide buy in. Defining the target result, specifically and so that it is clear to all, is not necessarily easy. With these ‘2’ in mind, in everyone’s mind, just imagine how many conversations and decisions might be had across the whole organization, even if it is very big. Imagine how helpful that could be. Notice how easily invitation to discuss these two items can harness the whole company.
The ‘1’ of the 4-3-2-1
All of this holds a very large element of trust that the individual will get on board and not just tepid support, but actively help to grow the 4 and 3 and 2. The fundamental that must be abundantly available is ‘willingness’
- Willingness, to share the vision and values and purpose as their own
When this is true, every challenge can be satisfactorily overcome, every person will feel their contribution, the organization will soar higher and breathe easier than ever before. Yes, statistically, it is impossible to fully engage everyone. Some people are just not into engagement. Sad but true. Often, however, the unengaged change their mind when they see how much fun the engaged folks are having. Onward.
I assert that truly successful organizations are finding their way to embracing their own versions of these four pillars of success.
Note that all four parts are designed to be easy to remember. Note that the order of addressing the four pillars need not be sacrosanct but they do feed each other. Some may insist that ‘3’ (or another) must come first. OK, go for it. In my own experiences working with many companies, getting these in front of the whole organization gets things started and soon enough which pillar to address first becomes evident.
Finally, please note how the Pillars can engage macroscopically all the way to microscopically. We get to zoom into detail or pull back to the helicopter view and still never lose sight of the Pillars. There is no other approach that provides this easy and fluid change in focus and that still maintains the foundational Pillars. Further, all levels of the organization can do all of these, as suited to their own knowledge and responsibilities. In any group there will be some that like this and others who like that. Great there is some aspect of it all that will appeal to everyone that wishes to engage. This natural outcome supports acknowledging and celebrating differences of individuals. All good.