BIC - February 2019
By: Shawn M. Galloway
How will you sustain performance improvement? Your organization will either adapt or die, depending on its ability to generate sustainable value. What's happening right now is one of two things: Your organization is either evolving toward greater effectiveness or on the path to irrelevancy. For an organization to survive and thrive, people within it must "live strategy" by continuously understanding and focusing on delivering value.
Living strategy is a way of being, a way of behaving. Most of all, it's a way of asking relevant questions, listening to the answers and making educated guesses. Living strategy is a positive habit aimed at sustainable effectiveness: finding the right thing to do and doing it. That "right thing" has to be aligned with your organization's purpose and the true and unique needs to improve both safety performance and culture. Then everyone needs to be aligned with the strategy and main areas of focus. Alignment occurs when people's beliefs, values and behaviors are congruent with strategic direction.
By following this proven strategy development methodology, you have now defined your customers, vision of success, the rationale and supporting story, the scope, what supports or conflicts with your ability to succeed, the relevant data, how to choose, how to measure and monitor your progress and value created, and, finally, how to continually improve. These 10 questions have been presented in a linear form for simplicity, but keep in mind this process is iterative. You may have a vision of success that meets your rationale, only to later discover it would be rejected by your culture — a good idea, but not here, not now. In such a case, you'll need to reevaluate the intervention at an earlier stage. So, what are your indicators that inform the decision to stay the current course (that value is recognized and performance improvement is sustaining or will prompt you to pivot or adjust proactively)? Early awareness gives you a chance to respond quickly, often with fewer resources.
After any intervention, it's wise to measure. You either want to avoid what happened in the past or build on your success. Lagging indicators tell you how things were in the past. This is the easiest indicator because the past doesn't change. Unlike the past, the future is uncertain. Leading indicators are useful, as they give you an idea of what the future might bring, but they are not perfect predictions of a future state. Transformational indicators are a special type of leading indicator that measure value and show up as new and more functional ways of thinking and behaving. These indicators measure your strategy's efficacy, what and how value is being created, and the likelihood of that continuing or growing.
Your organization is a living enterprise. It changes, either rapidly or over time, through constant transformation as it adapts to new challenges. The same is true of your culture, which is your most effective sustainability tool. How will you make your efforts the new way we do things around here? This final question within the Inside Strategy methodology and book of the same title is the most difficult one to answer. What works for one location may not for another. What one group supports, another might reject. Within your unique culture, your organizational and business realities, once your strategic choices take shape and create new value, what are your transformational indicators and how will you sustain performance improvement?