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Achieving Smooth Operations
(Working toward Team Targets)


Clint Maun, CSP


The needs of an organization often do not match the needs of the human beings who work within the organization. Leaders today are faced with how to appropriately blend these seemingly opposite needs. We found that organizations produce routine, rational, planned, logical, highly predictable and low-delayed events. However, this is not true of why human beings work in an organization. Human beings have different and very important personal needs.

Individuals in the workforce can be emotional, spontaneous, moody, sometimes illogical, and often become bored with the concept and implementation of routines. What becomes challenging is how to develop human beings to work in an inspired, motivated way toward an organizational team effort.

We found that it becomes critically important to establish a clear vision of what success looks like for the organization, then develop a similarly clear vision of what individual success looks like for each employee in the organization. Tying these two visions together will produce a championship season. Specifically, you must first define the targets showing what the organization must achieve to be successful and then tie individual performance to those success targets.

Establishing the specific targets or indicators of what a championship season for the organization would be or may include goals such as revenue, quality, cost, customer satisfaction and revenue enhancement. It also may include other dimensions of success that are measurably specific to the organization's purpose, vision and mission.

To have the opportunity for achieving "Smooth Operations", the organizational need and the human need must become more aligned toward a common purpose to affect the necessary changes to guide the organization toward its championship season. In effect, your are creating an artificial enemy or outside concern for the organization to "rally" together to tackle. This alignment helps keep us from having a number of inside enemies getting in the way, i.e., blame, guilt, or the pointing of fingers.

When every individual in the organization clearly understands not only the vision, mission and purpose of the organization, but also what the indicators or targets for success are, then there is purposeful and focused activity. To maintain this purposeful and focused activity, it is necessary to provide your people with ongoing feedback about how they are doing as an organization in accomplishing the indicators or targets. As you study the following four quadrants, you can see the purpose of an organization is best achieved by moving activities to the upper left quadrant which relates to highly predictable, low-delayed events.

Activities with high levels of predictability and shorter delay times become the definition of "smooth" or "planned." The three remaining quadrants represent "less smooth" operations. Supporting individuals working on tasks in these other three quadrants is important. One overall management goal should be to move issues; concerns or events in the "less smooth" quadrants to the more predictable, low-delayed area and/or to enhance current work efforts to become more highly predictable, lower-delayed events. In our terminology, accomplishing these efforts would be called, "Smoother Operations".

An organization that is effective in developing a focused environment realizes human beings have needs, wants and desires that need to be met. This is the area where Continuous Quality Improvement (CQI) efforts often fail. They neglect to tie the overall organizational purpose to specific, meaningful end measurements, targets or indicators that employees can use to measure their individual performance. This hampers efforts to develop empowered action teams charged with producing a championship season.

First, define the indicators or targets that can bring about the championship season. Then you will have a greater opportunity to empower, motivate and develop employees. This is where reward ties to organizational purpose. We specifically recommend that organizations should reward individual performance only after organizational success has been accomplished.

Implementation of this recommendation may have to be phased-in due to the current organizational culture or specific compensation/reward processes. But, we believe it is important to move in that direction once you have sent a clear message that "we will be successful as an organization first and then we will recognize appropriate individual contributions".

This philosophy sends a clear message about purpose and focus. This forces people to stop "whose job is it", "whose fault it is", "who didn't do something", "who did the wrong thing" and allows all to develop motivated and empowered action teams.

When people participate in action teams understanding the purpose and focus of a championship season, you will have people willing to do whatever it takes to accomplish success. This process helps produce "self-initiated" behavior which in our opinion is the true core of a CQI effort.

If you can't set this process in motion, you become susceptible to the failures of teams that have developed individual performance incentives or job descriptions for specialized players where rewards are based upon "individual" performance. These individual accomplishments by members of the team might be tremendous, but usually will not lead to a championship season for the organization.

You can often observe this sort of dysfunctional behavior on sports teams where a "star" player's individual performance is recognized and rewarded over and above the rest of the team's success. Achieving a championship season is usually impossible for a team that allows this sort of organizational dysfunction to exist.

In summary, achieving "Smooth Operations" occurs when everyone working in an organization understands the purpose and mission of that organization. Once they understand the targets or successes they can accomplish, coupled with management's efforts to structure tasks into highly predictable, low-delayed work efforts, you have an opportunity to communicate and direct the organization's efforts toward the championship.

The wonderful by-product that comes from meeting the individual's need to have purposeful, focused work with clear goals, targets and objectives is that you can more easily accomplish the overall goals of the organization.

If you would like more information on organization leadership, teaming and how to achieve Smooth Operations in your organization, please click here.

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