Technical Assistance include its compliance and regulation services along with brokering assistance with marketing, grant writing and other operational needs. It will also include offering assistance in matching USDA housing financing programs with those offered by our affiliates.
  • Partnership Challenges:
  • What clients (and internal customers) expect of us related to their business and their relationship with the organization.
  • Resource Management Challenges: How our resources (money, time, etc.) are created, utilized and tracked.
  • Product Design Challenges: What we do to design, build and deliver products that customers will then own.
  • Operational Services Challenges: How we provide ongoing services, both to clients and internally.
  • People Management Challenges: The way the organization treats its staff.
Within each of these themes, leaders craft precise statements of what’s expected of the organization. The overriding vision is of a competitive business within a business. This paradigm provides the framework within which specific expectations are crafted. Again, this is not a single pretty paragraph. It’s a detailed set of expectations that precisely define the organization of the future. And again, this takes work. Developing a vision induces meaningful debates within the leadership team about where we’re going. For example, are we really going to be customer focused, or do we know what’s best for the company and we’re here to control clients? How about a set of vision statements that reads:
  • In response to customers’ requests, proactively propose a range of viable alternatives (as in Chevrolet, Cadillac or Rolls-Royce) that represent meaningful choices in cost and functionality.
  • Fully inform customers of everything it knows relevant to their business decisions.
  • Help customers make wise purchase decisions, i.e., choose from among the alternatives we offered based on their values/preferences, not ours.
  • Accept customers’ decisions without ever undermining them or becoming a hurdle or adversary.
These examples are excerpted from an actual database of vision statements accumulated from thousands of leaders in dozens of organizations over the last 15 years.
The hard work pays off. Developing a clear vision is great team-building, since leaders come to consensus on how the organization should work. A detailed vision guides every organizational change toward a common end point. And it’s motivational to staff since they finally understand where their leaders are taking them and why change is needed. Values The typical values statement: “Ethics, Trust, Customer Focus, Teamwork, Initiative, Motherhood.” Nice words. The expected reaction is something like, “OK, now that you mention it, I’ll stop lying, making commitments I can’t keep, back-stabbing my colleagues and abusing clients.” But the truth is, these glowing words have only a marginal impact on day-to-day behaviors. In some cases, they even have the wrong impact; for example, “I’m being ethical and looking out for the best interests of the company; therefore, I won’t give you the system you’re asking for because I’m the one who knows what’s best for you.” Most parents know you’re supposed to “criticize the behavior, not the child.” Learning theory is quite clear on the importance of teaching behaviors, not values. It’s the same in organizations. To be effective, values have to be translated into clear operating principles. For example, instead of saying “we value trust,” tell people what to do to build others’ trust, like, “We never make a commitment we can’t keep, and we keep every commitment.” Essentially, this defines an organization’s culture in a way that has immediate impact. Those who preach values-based leadership are the ones who will tell you it takes a generation to change culture. In fact, we’ve seen dramatic impacts on culture in less than a year with the behavioral approach. Work on values isn’t necessarily wasted. Each value can be considered a “theme,” within which leaders craft actionable principles of behavior. (For examples of behavioral principles within the 13 themes we use to facilitate cultural change, take a look at some examples from the database we’ve accumulated working with a broad variety of leadership teams over the years.) Then comes the challenge: roll-out. Leaders teach staff the expected behaviors, talk about how the principles apply to their daily work, listen to staff’s feedback and measure and reinforce compliance. Again, real leadership is not a quick workshop resulting in some laudable words. It’s a process and a level of detail that impacts staff’s daily work. The Bottom Line I can see it now.... The posts following this column will be a mixture of CIOs saying “we did the enterprisewide mission paragraph and it was wonderful” and consultants saying “we facilitate mission-vision-values statements and they’re wonderful.” Perhaps I’ve been overly harsh to make a point. No doubt, the conventional statements do some good. But the fact is, in leadership like in everything else in life, you get what you pay for. A leadership retreat that comprises two days of wordsmithing (and golf) resulting in a one-page statement of mission-vision-values isn’t going to change much in a large organization. Mission, vision, values (i.e., culture) . . . each is worth doing only if it’s done right. To have any real impact, leaders need to: 1) study frameworks, principles and guidelines that will help them do a good job; 2) adopt a well-defined process; 3) put in the “sweat equity” it takes to develop a meaningful level of detail; and 4) invest in effective communications of the results with staff. And mission-vision-values is not one thing. Each is a different process with a different intent. They don’t all have to be done at once. Before you start, think past the buzz-words and understand what you’re trying to accomplish. Plan the right sequence of leadership initiatives. And whatever you choose to do, do it well.