Use Your Company to Create a Learning Organization

Building a Turn-key Organization part 3

Act Strategically by Training Tactically

corporate officeIn the last post in this series of building a self-running organization, I shared a way to delegate when you feel you need to do everything yourself.   Teaching your people this skill increases their effectiveness tremendously.

Great leaders train their employees to replace them.  In this article we’ll continue developing our self-running organization: a business or department that you can run, not a job that runs you.

Our goal is to create a self-running entity that requires no supervision and operates in our absence.  But to do this requires us to carry out strategies, not just tactics.  Simply put, a tactic is feeding a man a fish where a strategy is teaching him to fish.

A tactical example of performing a task is doing it yourself each time.  A strategic example would be training a subordinate to handle it without your involvement.  Your aim is to set up as many tasks as possible so they happen without your direct involvement.

Delegating is a tactic.  Instructing your people how to train their staff in delegation is a strategy.  By leading your people in top-down delegation and instructing them to copy your training methods, you encourage them to think and act strategically.  This is the essence of creating a self-running organization.

What’s the #1 Reason an Employee Leaves?

Many research firms have studied why employees stay or leave a company. In fact, pay isn’t even in the top three reasons and often not even in the top five. The number one reason surprises most leaders. Do you know what it is?
Poor management.

Human resource professionals insist that employees leave managers, not companies. For further reading on this topic, pick up a copy of The 7 Hidden Reasons Employees Leave by Leigh Branham.

What’s the implication? Can you keep your best people if you offer good leadership, upward mobility, challenging work, and praise? The data suggest you can.  Guess what? These are all things you can give your people without cost to you.
McKinsey_InfographicAs a management consulting firm’s white paper shows, larger companies are also adopting more non-monetary strategies to attract and keep the best employees.

How to Cultivate Employee Loyalty?

At the consulting firm when starting a job, we routinely surveyed the senior management of our clients. One series of questions that always drew similar answers had to do with employees. When we asked why employees departed, the managers listed these items:

  • inadequate compensation
  • poor or inappropriate benefits
  • lack of upward mobility

When asked how they were able to keep the employees that remained, these managers reported:

  • good pay
  • benefits
  • company culture
  • challenging work.

The managers were always very confident in the accuracy of their answers.

You can forge intense bonds of loyalty in your subordinates even if you run a small company, pay below market salary, experience high turnover, and the job and industry are very difficult.

Involve Subordinates in Strategic Planning

You can building your direct reports’ critical thinking skills by having them take part in strategic planning.  To do this, give each subordinate a copy of your business plan and have them read it thoroughly.

Then brainstorm What If? scenarios with your people and have them devise solutions.  Write down all the scenarios and their proposed solutions in your business plan.

Institutionalize critical thinking in your organization to develop action plans that your team can instantly carry out in a crisis.

There’s a natural gravitas, an air of stuffiness that arises when a company practices strategic planning. Many executives think only the highest ranking employees should see the future plans, that leaders should approach the process ultra-seriously.

Balderdash! Make it fun. Don’t walk on eggshells.  Be as outrageous and childlike as you wish.  Encourage your people to devise their own what if? scenarios and make a game of it. Give cute prizes for creativity. The best way to cement knowledge it to play with it.

By enabling your subordinates to create and brainstorm solutions to business problems, you give them the absolute best leadership training you can.  You prepare them to think and act independently when they meet real-world problems. They won’t suffer from paralysis like so many managers when confronted with an unanticipated problem.

A manager confronted with a crisis is more effective when she has a plan.  Incorporate planning into your leadership routine.  Then when your people meet a thorny problem, they’ll already have solved similar ones and have a ready action plan which they can apply or change.  In the rare event they face an entirely new problem, they’ll be comfortable with brainstorming because of your scenario training. And they’ll go ahead and solve it. Eventually you won’t even need to manage the process!

Compile all the contingent scenarios and their respective solutions into an annex of your business plan to develop a truly comprehensive strategy that can serve as a future action plan – or a great starting point during crisis.  Imagine having the wealth of brainstorming when you most need it, codified into your business plan.

Having your teams brainstorm What If? scenario planning can be a terrifically valuable and enjoyable aspect of a corporate retreat.  Employees become excited when you engage them and they feel part of the process. By having them take part in future planning, you invite them to see the long-term goals of the company and encourage them to help plan its future. They’ll feel they belong and their work will take on renewed meaning.

If your direct reports are themselves managers, encourage them to run planning drills with their people. Get everybody on the same page and you’ll be on the way to creating a self-running organization.

What is your most prized management technique to develop subordinates?  Comment and let me know.

In the next article, the fourth and last in this series, I’ll share a way to offer upward mobility to anyone within your organization, even your line workers who might be stagnating. This technique will increase productivity while saving money.  It will also develop management skills in these workers giving them leadership responsibility. Do you have a guess what it is? Stay tuned next week to find out. Until then,

profitable business All!

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