The World Is Not Enough: Innovation, Quality, Safety, and Sustainability

Doug Collins - Thursday, December 22, 2016

Exploded view.

We seek in our organizations transformation. We aspire to become more agile. We want to be able to change more readily and rapidly than the Digital Age demands. If we stay ahead of the curve, then we control our own destiny.

Let our transformation inspire our clients and dismay our competitors, not the other way around.

As a result, we launch initiatives. We call the initiatives innovation and quality and sustainability and safety. Each represents an attribute we admire and desire. We seek to build “cultures of.”

We assign leaders to each initiative. We assign experienced hands: people with a track record to get things done. We assign up-and-comers: people with promise who, with a bit of visibility and luck, go on to greater positions of leadership.

These leaders form teams or have teams handed to them. The teams convene to cogitate on the how and the why.

Where do we focus our efforts—our work to improve one or more value streams that empower the organization? Do we start with product development? Or, maybe the supply chain?

What enabling practices do we embrace to guide us in our engagement and to increase the likelihoods that the outcomes are favorable? Who knows something about design thinking? Do we have the expertise in house?

If we do this work, together, what outcomes do we achieve? Do the customers love us more? Do they buy more from us? Do the employees work harder and more thoughtfully for us? Do they bring to us more ideas? Do we freshen our brand image?

If we do this work, together, what financial benefits do we bring to the organization? Do we gain greater profits because we make the right product for the right customers at the right time? Do we gain greater turnover because we have minimized waste—muda—in a critical value stream? Is our financial leverage greater because we know now how to put our resources to better use?

Do we get to live another day? Are we fulfilled? Are we satisfied?

As we enter the new year, we find that the increasing pace of change causes us—forces us—to say, “the world is not enough.” No, we are not satisfied.

Each element of change that we seek becomes one variation of an overarching expression of leadership, shown as we in turn build a culture of innovation and a culture of quality and a culture of sustainability and a culture of safety.

In 2017 we can no longer afford the luxury of dividing and conquering: each cultural attribute must be pursued in context of the whole. The whole, as measure in stakeholder and financial outcomes, is greater than the sum of the parts. 

In 2017 gather your leaders of innovation, quality, sustainability, and safety. Share with them the figure above. Tell them they are part of a whole, the whole being the journey towards authentic transformation on which the organization has embarked. Tell them the reason why the initiatives, one after another, sparked, then lit, then died out over time was because the organization thought they were wholly separate from one another: distinct activities, dependent on cults or personality, vulnerable to increasing turnover.

Give them one charter. Give them one budget.

We see through experience that pursuing each cultural attribute on its own was never going to work: that transformation would elude us, always. The pace of change that confronts us in 2017 dictates that half measures no longer suffice: the world is not enough.  

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