by Ron Ragain, Ph.D.
Last month we shared the 11 topics that will make up our 2013 Newsletter Series - Characteristics of an Effective Organization.
When we talk about effective organizations, we are really talking about organizational characteristics that have been created through the decisions and actions of upper management and then passed down through the organization to become part of the organization’s culture. So when we talk about clearly defining and communicating mission, goals, values and expectations we are talking about something that must come from the top.
Let’s start with “mission”. An organization’s mission is its reason for existing, its purpose, where it is “headed”. People need to know the mission so that they can “get on board” and help with its accomplishment. The mission is usually defined and then communicated through a “mission statement” that has been thought out and clearly articulated by senior management.
For example, McDonald’s stated mission “is to be our customers’ favorite place and way to eat.” That is “why” they are in business. That is where they want to “go” so to speak. That is their direction.
Goals & Values
This mission is pursued through the accomplishment of a set of clearly articulated goals and the application of a set of “values” that impact decision making. For example, McDonald’s states their values as centering “on an exceptional customer experience - People, Products, Place, Price and Promotion. We are committed to continuously improving our operations and enhancing our customers’ experience”. They have additionally articulated a set of seven specific values that further clarify their overall values statement and guide the accomplishment of their mission.
We place the customer experience at the core of all we do.
We are committed to our people.
We believe in the McDonald’s System.
We operate our business ethically.
We give back to our communities.
We grow our business profitably.
We strive continually to improve.
Formal & Informal Cultures
The mission and values statement of an organization like McDonald’s is an attempt to articulate the desired “formal” culture of the organization, but only through clear articulation of expectations and followup on achievement of those expectations can an organization have an alignment of the informal culture with the desired formal culture of the organization. To read more, see our recent blog post "You Might Not Always Get What You Want."
Effective organizations and their leaders continuously evaluate movement toward the stated mission, in light of the stated goals and values, and then communicate their expectations of team and individual performance throughout the organization. As we will discuss in future newsletters, they also hold everyone accountable for meeting expectations and understand that clarity of expectations has a direct impact on a person’s ability to be successful.
What's the point?
In effective organizations, the mission, goals, values and expectations are not mere words on a plaque on the wall. Rather, they are a way of life, understood by every team member. They are the catalyst for moving the organization toward greatness.
Question: I work for a small oil field services company and we are having major issues with our safety results right now. We tell our people that they have “stop work authority” but each and every accident investigation shows that people knew what was going on but didn’t say anything. How can we make our employees live up to our safety expectations?
SafetyCompass®: Thank you for the question and please understand that we are asked this by many companies, both large and small. This idea of “stop work authority” and employees not living up to that expectation goes far beyond the way that you communicate your expectations to your employees. You are dealing with a workplace that is a complex social system in which employees speak up or don’t speak up for a myriad of reasons. For example, there could be fear of reprisal, high risk tolerance, or social (peer-to-peer) pressures to ignore things that they know to be unsafe.
We hear a lot of managers say that their employees don’t have the “courage” to speak up. So where does the courage to speak up come from? Courage is sometimes referred to as being afraid but doing it anyway. We think that is far too simplistic. Courage, or lack thereof, is a subjective label that is applied only after a person does or does not perform. We see courageousness as being directly linked to competency. If a person knows how to do something effectively, he is more willing to perform a task. Our research shows that employees who don’t intervene in unsafe acts fail to do so either because they did it before and it didn’t go well or they observed someone else fail. In other words, they didn’t know how to do it correctly. Subsequent research has shown that those who develop the skills of stopping and redirecting unsafe behavior (through training and coaching) are more likely to do so in the future.
We would recommend that you find, or develop training to teach your front-line employees how to stop unsafe behavior or conditions that they observe and then intervene in such a way that reduces defensiveness and creates long term behavior change.