Sunday, June 28, 2015

Surviving a Trough of Chaos in the midst of a Sideways Cyclone - part #1

During the Spring 2015 From Vision to Action Executive Roundtable before a wonderful group of leaders from four different states, I noted that more and more companies and organizations are feeling like they are caught in a trough of chaos in the midst of a sideways cyclone. 

The trough of chaos is a normal stage of organizational development where a group of people move outside their comfort zone to achieve a greater level of performance.

The sideways cyclone, a term coined by students of mine in the From Vision to Action Leadership Training, happens when multiple changes cycles are being initiated at the same time, overwhelming daily operations.

The late William Bridges in his book, Managing Transitions: Making the Most of Change, (Da Capo Press, 2003), reminds us that during such times people need four things, namely a clear sense of purpose for the changes that are taking place, a picture of what we are striving towards, a plan of how to get there, and someone to articulate what is my part and how it fits into the picture and the plan.

For us here today, let’s focus on the picture first. When you are feeling like you are caught in a trough of chaos in the midst of a sideways cyclone, what does operational excellence and strategic clarity look like? A big part of working through this combined challenge is to create a strategic mindset. This means that all involved understand the context for change, the overall strategy leading the organization, and the definition of operational excellence.

Right now, not enough leaders are painting this picture and creating this depth of clarity. In particular, we are under-communicating context, and under-communicating the strategy. But, from my vantage point, we are significantly under-communicating right now what is operational excellence.

It is time people recognize that the understanding of what is operational excellence is directly connected to the cash generating part of the business. People need to understand that operational excellence happens when problem-solving, teamwork and leadership result in on-going improvements in day to day activities. Until there is a recognition of the need for continuous improvement at the day to day level, we will constantly be caught in a trough of chaos in the midst of a sideways cyclone.

This week talk with all of your team leaders about what is the picture and the mindset of operational excellence. It is time we move forward together, and get past feeling overwhelmed.

Geery Howe, M.A. Consultant, Executive Coach, Trainer in Leadership, Strategic Planning and Organizational Change Morning Star Associates 319 - 643 - 2257

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