Management Excellence starts with values. The people in the organisation display a fierce commitment to shared values and exhibition those values in everyday activities, large and small. The values are always displayed, from talent selection and development to programmes, policies, and key decisions. The values are self-policing, and those who ultimately do not share the values are voted off the island.
Learning and continuous improvement drive the daily work. Learning and refining processes and approaches are what people do every day. Innovation is not a programme but an outgrowth of the most powerful behaviour in the organisation: learning via experimentation.
Robust debate leads to unified actions. No punches are pulled in the professional but brutally clear discussions around the organisational direction. Along with a culture that encourages debate, it calls for quick, fact-based or best judgment decisions to move ideas into action and start the learning process. Once a decision is made, it is everyone's decision.
Strategy is everyone's business. And everyone is involved in strategy. Front-line and customer-facing colleagues provide perspectives on reality. Individuals at all levels work to decide on the direction and execution of strategic initiatives is immediately absorbed into the organisation's operating routine and learning cycle. As a result, every person in the organisation understands the strategy and helps support its ongoing evolution.
Time travel is required. An organisation exhibiting management excellence operates in two-time horizons: the here and now and a far-away future where everything that once worked is likely no longer relevant. Both time horizons are part of the planning process, and one is not sacrificed for the other.
The Field-of-View alternates between the immediate scene and far away sectors and technologies. In our world of volatility, the organisation displaying management excellence maintains an intimate view of its clients and the forces impacting the industry while simultaneously monitoring far-away global trends and technologies for threats and opportunities.
Life in this organisation is a verb phrase. The organisation, employees and volunteers are in perpetual motion refining and improving to the outside observer while experimenting and innovating. The organisation's culture abhors standing still or running in place. As a result, it is accepted and expected that the organisation operates in perpetual reinvention mode.
No lip service allowed for employee or volunteer development. Every member of the organisation is supported by growth as both a leader and a follower. From the top of the organisation to the front lines, participation in new and different opportunities is part of what it means to be a part of this opportunity.
The functions exist to support the organisation and strategy, not themselves. There are experts in various disciplines, but their report-to accountability is the organisation, not the function. The same goes for infrastructure and systems.
Financial results are viewed as important outcomes of the organisation's collective actions. They are neither the end-goal nor dismissed as unimportant. There is balance around the view to the numbers.
The pursuit of greatness is the secret sauce that drives every participant. Few forces are more powerful than a group of individuals who believe they are contributing to the creation of something great.
The Bottom Line
The characteristics above are generalisations of sets of idealised behaviours. Inherent in these behaviours is the belief that the organisation's senior leaders commit to forming and framing an environment where this style of working and engaging emerges and flourishes.
The behaviours define a new job description for leaders and a new measuring stick for leadership effectiveness. And while cynics might dismiss these behaviours as idealistic and impractical and a organisation displaying the characteristics of management excellence as implausible, if you capture the hearts and minds of a group of people, you can achieve anything. Now, the challenge is once excellence is realised, how is it sustained?